Oxfam awaits approval for WFP food deliveries

A British charity Oxfam on Thursday said it was still awaiting approval from the Zimbabwean government to go ahead with the delivery of food supplied by the World Food Programme (WFP).

Jane Cocking, Oxfam's regional programme manager in Zimbabwe told IRIN: "We are still in negotiations to become a WFP implementing partner. All the paperwork has been done and there are ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Social Welfare. We are confident that the suspension will be lifted soon."

Last month Oxfam and Save the Children's Fund (SCF), another British NGO were banned from distributing WFP-supplied food aid. Additionally, SCF was ordered to stop distributing its own food to people in the Binga district of western Zimbabwe.

The ban on the two charities came at a critical point, with hunger deepening across Zimbabwe. WFP has estimated that close to six million are in need of emergency food aid until the next harvest in March/April 2003.

In the meantime, Oxfam said that it had distributed seeds to communities in the Midlands and Masvingo provinces.

Last year the government accused aid agencies of using food relief to campaign for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

More recently, the politicisation of food aid has become a controversial issue as the government faces allegations of channelling food aid away from regions where political opposition is strongest.

Last month WFP suspended the distribution of relief supplies in Insiza district in Matabeleland South province due to alleged political interference by President Robert Mugabe's ruling party.