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U.S. Will Increase Food Aid

Africa: Contribution is to go to U.N. fight against hunger. Zimbabwe is blamed for its problems.

June 12, 2002|From Associated Press

ROME — The United States said Tuesday that it will provide a third of the 1.2 million tons of food aid needed to stave off famine in southern Africa, a crisis it said is being exacerbated by Zimbabwe's policies.

Andrew Natsios, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the United States is contributing an extra 275,000 tons of wheat to the U.N. emergency relief effort for six African countries, bringing its total to 400,000 tons.

However, Natsios told a news conference on the sidelines of the U.N. World Food Summit that the problem in Zimbabwe, one of the six affected countries, isn't about food so much as food distribution.

Natsios said he was concerned by reports that President Robert Mugabe's government is preventing food aid from getting to opposition strongholds.

"We've even heard of children whose parents are suspected of supporting the opposition being turned away from feeding lines at schools," he said.

The World Food Program says half of the estimated 12.8 million people at risk of starvation in southern Africa are in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe's government has denied the opposition's allegations.

The head of the World Food Program, James Morris, said he had raised the issue with Mugabe and had received assurances that aid would get through.

He said, however, that Zimbabwe's land redistribution program has complicated relief efforts and contributed to the hunger problem. He cited a 55% decrease in commercial agricultural productivity this year over previous ones.

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