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Zambezi Times Online 2004

Drought Relief Inadequate, Numbers Of Vulnerable Set To Rise

DAR ES SALAAM, Jan 14 - Tanzania's concern at the lack of food may deepen due to further failed rains, the lack of available government food aid and international donations, government and donor officials told IRIN on Tuesday.

The response plan, which was prepared in August 2003 when indicators pointed to a pending drought in Tanzania, was "well conceived but implementation is so far unsatisfactory", the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) added in its most recent report on Tanzania.

The plan called for the release of 32,540 mt of maize from the nation's strategic grain reserve for subsidised sale to food insecure households during October and November 2003. Donors were due to provide 45,000 mt of maize to sustain farming households between December 2003 and March 2004.

Meanwhile, import duties were waived on maize to boost market supplies and there were calls for additional donations of seed and fertilisers.

FEWS cited figures from the prime minister's office showing that the government had "only released" 17,215 mt of maize out of the planned 32,540 mt. Moreover, just 61 percent of the released amount had been distributed to targeted persons by mid-December.

Officials in the prime minister's office acknowledged on Tuesday there were problems getting maize from other countries but said that the government was working "around the clock" to resolve the issue.

Tanzania's minister for agriculture and food security, Charles Keenja, told IRIN on Wednesday that, in an effort to bridge the gap in supplies, it would import 10,000 mt of maize from neighbouring Kenya.

"This food will be in the country as soon as the modalities and the logistics are worked out - hopefully within a few weeks," he said.

He added that before the next harvest Tanzania would also try to get supplies from Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

A privately-owned Kenyan Newspaper, The East African Standard, quoted on Monday Kenya's minister for agriculture, Kipruto Kirwa, as saying that a Tanzanian government delegation was due in Nairobi to work out the details of transporting maize from Kenya to the drought-hit country.

The UN World Food Programme, which is coordinating the appeal among donors, was also trying to fulfil the international community's contribution, Nicole Menage, the WFP resident representative in Dar es Salaam, told IRIN.

"We have only received sixty percent of the amount we appealed for," she said. "This means that we estimate that we are going to have to make cuts and feed people for two months instead of four. We don't have any contributions on the horizon and this is a concern as the situation is really deteriorating."

Added to this, Menage said the failure of the short rains in the bimodal and the traditionally drought prone areas meant that the initial calculation of 1.9 million Tanzanians needing food aid this year might be revised.

"We have people updating the assessment but the needs could well surpass what was estimated," she said.

The government said that the weather situation was "not very encouraging" and that the failure of the short rains meant that the number of people in need was bound to rise.

With growing anecdotal evidence of a worsening situation in the hardest hit regions of Dodoma, Singida and Shinyanga, observers are concerned that Tanzania is approaching a "precarious moment".

Source: UN Integrated Regional Information Networks/All Africa Global Media


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