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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Zimbabwe moves to control food aid
By Hilary Andersson
BBC, Johannesburg

Zimbabwe's Government has issued a directive for international food aid to be handed over to local authorities for distribution.

Queue for food aid
Some 3.8m Zimbabweans need food aid
Until now, the major foreign food donors have been distributing foreign food aid themselves - there have been concerns that President Robert Mugabe's government has politicised the food assistance that it controls.

The World Food Programme, whose representatives have seen a copy of the new directives, say they are seeking clarification from the government about exactly what this means.

There have been allegations by many Zimbabweans that the food assistance controlled by the state has been manipulated so that supporters of President Mugabe are given easier access to the food than his political opponents.

Zimbabwe's Government has strongly denied the allegations.

On the edge

Nevertheless, with Zimbabwe's political divisions ever more deeply entrenched, the new directive is likely to cause concern amongst foreign donors.

The food shortage in the country is getting worse.

Some 3.8 million Zimbabweans need food aid to survive; by the end of the year, it is predicted that that number will rise to 5.5 million.

With so many Zimbabweans living on the edge, any threat to food donations could prove disastrous.

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