The Zimbabwe government has agreed that the United Nations can begin its emergency food program to be distributed by non-governmental organizations.
The U.N. World Food Program received a letter from the Zimbabwe government giving the go ahead for the distribution of emergency food aid. Although the World Food Program would not comment on the arrangement, the agreement has been confirmed in the political and diplomatic community.
David Coltart is the opposition Movement for Democratic Changes member of parliament for a poor constituency in second city Bulawayo.
"I have been told by reliable diplomats in the course of the last few days last week the Zim[babwe] government signed an agreement with the WFP in terms of which the WFP will import food and will distribute it using NGOs and other institutions the last time this was done," said Mr. Coltart.
President Robert Mugabe said last year Zimbabwe would not need emergency food aid as farmers had grown record crops.
But the United Nations said crops had failed and that up to four million people would need food aid before the next harvest in April.
Last week Mr. Mugabe announced to state media that he told U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan that while he
welcomed donations of food, it should not be distributed by non-governmental organizations because he claims they have political agendas.
Mr. Coltart says that diplomats believe emergency feeding programs will be up and running before the end of the month. Mr.
Coltart says many in southern Zimbabwe are dependent on relatives and friends in South Africa for survival.
"There is food available, but it is beyond the price of many poor people, its the vulnerable groups that are badly affected, the
grandmothers who have lost all their children looking after grandchildren. People who have relatives in South Africa who are sending that money in are able to purchase the food because it is still affordable in the context of foreign exchange. It is the families with no external connections who are starving."
There was no one available from Zimbabwe's welfare department able to speak to the media.
The World Food Program not yet announced where it will begin its emergency program, but it is expected to start in dry areas in southern and eastern Zimbabwe that had unreliable rainfall last summer.
Two years ago the international donors including the World Food Program and US AID fed up to 5.5 million Zimbabweans - nearly half the population. The Zimbabwe government says it has ordered $26 million worth of food from South Africa.