Australia will provide an additional Aus $7.5 million (about US $5.1 million) in food aid to Southern Africa, in response to a renewed appeal from the World Food Programme (WFP) for support for its regional emergency operation.
"The WFP appeal aims to reach all of the estimated 6.5 million people in Southern Africa, including 5.5 million in Zimbabwe, who are in critical need of food aid in order to survive. It will deliver life-saving assistance to the people of Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe," the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday.
Australia's commitment followed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the WFP and the government of Zimbabwe, stipulating that the distribution of aid will be based solely on need.
"Australia, the WFP and other donors will monitor the distribution of food closely to ensure that it is free from political interference, and in line with the WFP agreement with the government of Zimbabwe," the ministry added.
Australia will also provide A $625,000 (about US $431,450) to the Plan Australia organisation, in a bid to complement WFP's programme in specific districts of Zimbabwe with an emergency supplementary feeding programme.
"This will be provided at health clinics for 16,000 malnourished children under five and 2,000 expecting/lactating mothers in Zimbabwe, and at schools for 26,000 children," the ministry noted.
The additional donation "brings Australia's commitment to reduce the impact of food crises in Africa since March 2002 to A $43.5 million (about US $30 million), including A $31 million (US $21.3 million) through the WFP. In 2002-03 Australia provided A $98 million (about US $67.6 million) in food aid to people in crisis," the ministry said.
The announcement comes ahead of the WFP's "Tackle Hunger" campaign, to be launched in conjunction with the Rugby World Cup 2003.
"This awareness-raising campaign is part of the WFP's continuing efforts to alleviate hunger throughout the world. Australia is pleased to be a supporter of WFP and its "Tackle Hunger" campaign. We have a productive and long-standing relationship with the WFP in providing emergency and humanitarian aid," the ministry added.
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