Examination of Witness (Questions 60 -
MONDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2002
60. My point is a slightly different one. I
do not want to hog this but somehow one has a feeling that the
media and the world have not quite taken on board just how serious
the crisis is. Quite understandably, a lot of attention has been
focused on Iraq and some other areas and very little detailed
attention has been given to the crisis that is unfolding in Africa.
(Ms Lewis) Absolutely, and I think many times we see
in the media they take a very cynical view about Africa, but you
have been there, you have seen the suffering and where people
start in a crisis and they are so vulnerable and any shock causes
mass suffering and that is where we are. I do think that we have
seen a fair degree of coverage and interest in Southern Africa.
Many of the high-level visits have continued to bring some attention
to the situation. We have a good international media in South
Africa that we continue to send out. We try to let them see what
is going on, but it is just not enough and the UN's recent study
shows that the crises that have the "CNN" factor are
the ones that are resourced. That is one of the things we are
struggling against when we are talking about Afghanistan, Palestine,
North Korea and the Horn. Those are the type of challenges that
the international community has to grapple with.
61. To go back to the immediate food crisis
and how we can move from this year's food crisis in which originally,
apart from the acetate that HIV/AIDS has laid over it, there was
a question of whether it was drought or capacity? On the last
day of the last visit (we were there in October) we were out in
the fields and it was starting to rain. I was visiting a seed
store but they had not sufficient seeds and they could not afford
fertiliser. I was left wondering, knowing that a year ago there
was no rain and we were sending in food aid, yes, about distributing
seeds and getting people fertiliser so they can plant in time
for the rain that is coming now so there is not a crisis next
year. How has that been addressed? Certainly in Malawi it did
not look too bright.
(Ms Lewis) The only country that really made a good
faith effort was Zambia where we have seen a good bit of input
seeds and fertilisers to the most vulnerable. The funding has
just been abysmal for the FAO part of the appeal. Zambia is the
only country that received what they were looking for in terms
of seeds and tools. James Morris, in conjunction with Mr Diouf,
sent out a letter to the international community to help us with
this, but the response has not been what it needs to be. Zimbabwe
did in fact have some seeds available. Unfortunately, the poor
farmers could not afford the seeds nor the fertilisers.
62. To be fair, the seed store was supported
by our own DFID, and they were giving out starter packs of seeds
and fertiliser all packaged so the people could put them in the
soil and get on with it. Whose responsibility would it be to organise
a full-scale replanting programme to get ahead of the game with
even the possibility of two crops per year rather than just one?
Who is addressing that within your organisation?
(Ms Lewis) This would fall under the Food and Agricultural
Organisation's mandate working with the ministry of agriculture
to do that. Certainly we have been trying to track a little bit
about the winter cropping in Malawi, the alternative crops, not
just the maize but cassava, and we are trying to figure out how
to have surveillance so that we can monitor the input for the
food balance sheet in Malawi. I understand that the starter pack
programme in Malawi was certainly much more healthy and aggressive
for this year than last year. It is certainly supported by DFID
and is much more aggressive this year, which I think was certainly
63. But it is the scale of what is needed.
(Ms Lewis) That is right.
64. Is there a time-line then for planting?
We vaguely hope the rain will come every year and rather than
lurching from one food aid crisis to another, it would be a disaster
if this time next year we are talking about not drought but the
lack the of planting that caused hunger. Can we work backwards
and say in two years' time we will make sure everybody has got
seeds and fertiliser?
(Ms Lewis) Absolutely. One of the things the FAO is
now doing is considering sending more senior technical experts
to the region. They will be part of the Regional Inter-Agency
Support Unit there in Johannesburg with us, and I think that is
going to help all of us be very strategic in our thinking and
looking to the future. Clearly the mandate right now is to save
lives but if we are not going to be in the same position next
year, the next year and the next year we have got to be very strategic
in looking to the future.
65. Will there be a proper connection between
what you are doing and the FAO are doing because at the ground
floor level how do you stop a person whose family is pretty hungry
and on the verge of dying from starvation from eating the seeds
they are given to plant? You need to lay down the seeds and food
(Ms Lewis) That is right. We are working much more
closely with FAO in terms of seed protection. This is where the
food and the seeds go to the villages at the same time. The monitors
are there to explain to people, "This grain is for eating,
these grains are for planting." We are working to increase
that. It also cuts down on logistics costs and on the amount of
staff time involved if we go at the same time. We are working
with our partners on the ground to do that. We are going to enhance
that collaboration and co-ordination with FAO. FAO is also looking
to work with UNICEF through the schools for nutrition awareness,
planting gardens at community level, those types of interventions.
I am encouraged. I think FAO is going to be much more engaged
and involved than they have been in the past.
66. A number of the Committee who were in Malawi
were seriously concerned over issues relating to the sale of the
Strategic Grain Reserve, the potential for corruption and the
governance in Malawi. Obviously in Zimbabwe there were very serious
questions over governance there. What can the World Food Programme
do to ensure that the food aid is not used by recipient governments
as a tool and therefore becomes part of the problem, because they
are then given another strong tool to influence within the country
and to hold down opponents by denying them that aid? If the government
in a country is part of the problem, is the supplying of food
aid to that government strengthening their hand and making the
problem worse? What can be done about this?
(Ms Lewis) The World Food Programme has been very
clear in terms of our strategy in any country. We provide food
assistance to the most vulnerable. Vulnerable people do not necessarily
have politics, if you will, and when we do not have enough resources
we have to guarantee that the food gets to the most vulnerable.
We have been very clear with the government of Zimbabwe from the
very beginning and part of our negotiations with starting an office
again in Zimbabwe was this issue of independence, that we would
work with our implementing partners on the ground to work with
the local authorities to determine vulnerability. We have issued
a zero tolerance policy and we have had about a dozen instances
where there has been some type of disruption or an attempt to
influence the food that is being distributed. We have either stopped
what we were doing or we have not started the assistance. We continue
to reinforce that. We have had instances where we have asked the
government to go with us to investigate where you have these armed
combatants running around trying to influence what is going on.
We have been very clear and we will not deviate from that policy.
Our NGOs have been empowered to take those decisions on the ground
should there be any type of influence. James Morris and President
Mugabe have talked on five or six occasions since the World Food
Summit face to face about this issue. We absolutely do not have
enough food to do what needs to be done, let alone to have outside
influences trying to impact on what we are doing.
67. There is an article in today's Independent,
I think, with a photograph suggesting that in certain parts of
Zimbabwe unless you were a supporter of Zanu PF you simply did
not get food. There was a photograph of a malnourished man and
a whole village, village communities who had said they had supported
the MDC and unless they could produce a party card they did not
get any food aid. When you see press reports like that, what actually
happens on the ground? Do your team go and investigate that and
check up on what is happening?
(Ms Lewis) First of all, let me clarify what we are
seeing. The amount of food assistance that has actually been channelled
through the World Food Programme and that has actually been delivered
in Zimbabwe is just under 100,000 tonnes of food since March.
The amount of commercial imports that the government has been
able to produce and move into the country is over 600,000 tonnes
of food. What many people and journalists are confusing is the
GMB, the Grain Marketing Board, and their attempts to influence
food output. We cannot control how they use their food but if
you look at the difference and the controls that the UN and our
implementing partners take at ground level compared to the government's
ability to move around this 600,000 tonnes, that is where the
discrepancy comes in. However, if there is an instance where there
are issues raised the resident co-ordinator's office follows up.
The donors are very keen that we establish a monitoring surveillance
unit to follow up on these instances so that we can come back
and try to track and also try to influence the government. Every
time we have gone back to a government with a serious incident
we have found that they have in fact taken an interest in this,
they have gone with us, and even the minister went to the Insiza
incident to look at the situation. I think the UN will be stepping
up their monitoring and surveillance of these types of instances.
68. In another paper today, in The Times,
Didymus Mutasa, the administrative secretary of Zanu PF, is reported
to have said really quite an alarming thing. Zimbabwe has a population
of 12 million people and he is quoted by The Times as saying
"We would better off with only 6 million people, with our
own people who support the liberation struggle. We do not want
all these extra people". Will the World Food Programme raise
that with the government of Zimbabwe and ask what on earth does
(Ms Lewis) Absolutely.
69. And let us know what their response is.
(Ms Lewis) I think this would be better
raised by the Secretary General of the United Nations. I have
not seen that. That is one of the most horrifying statements.
I am shocked, I am speechless.
70. I was shocked but you are on the front line.
You cannot deliver what you need to do to people who are starving
(Ms Lewis) Absolutely not.
71.if you have people in the government,
or close to the government, in the ruling party, whose view is
that you should let people starve.
(Ms Lewis) That is unconscionable, absolutely unconscionable.
72. Maybe we might write to the Zimbabwean High
Commissioner in London and ask on behalf of this Government was
that said, is it a true and accurate statement and what does it
mean. Can I ask a straight forward factual question? What information
is available about the commercial imports into Southern Africa
and private trading between Southern African countries? How useful
and reliable is this information for WFP planning purposes? How
do restrictions on commercial imports and private trading impact
upon the humanitarian response and WFP's work in particular?
(Ms Lewis) Clearly we are able to track the commercial
imports because we can work with the traders, we can work with
the transporters, we can work with the people in the ports to
know what is expected. According to the latest estimates there
is still about a 900,000 tonne shortfall which does not take out
the surplus in Malawi, there is about 300,000 tonnes eventually
that will be in Malawi. This is 900,000 tonnes in the other five
countries that we are still trying to grapple with. That is fairly
easy to track. The informal markets are much more difficult to
track across the borders. There is traffic between Zambia and
Tanzania, there still is some movement there, and from Northern
Mozambique into Malawi, there is always a very strong, healthy,
informal traffic there. We just do not have enough people and
the network is not strong enough to get our arms around that.
In terms of planning, I think what we have done is to build scenarios
based on what we think we realistically can deliver based on resources,
based on our implementing partners' abilities to deliver. When
you put it in that perspective in terms of what the World Food
Programme is tyring to do overall compared to the needs, we just
have to continue to track it and continue to raise it with governments
in terms of how the commercial imports are going to impact on
73. Ms Lewis, can I start by thanking you and
your colleagues for the tremendous work that you are doing and
please go on doing it. The second thing is to say is you will
have seen that a number of us are peeling off to go to the floor
of the House because of the Iraq debate which is about to start.
Can I pick up this whole concept under international law of people
having the right to food and that states have the obligation to
ensure that their citizens have adequate food to ensure their
freedom from hunger. What do you think about the UN's Special
Rapporteur on the Right to Food, the statement that was made at
the General Assembly that "Anyone dying from hunger was dying
from murder"? Who do you think is accountable for ensuring
that people's rights to food are respected, protected and fulfilled?
(Ms Lewis) I think that is a very delicate issue when
you are talking about human rights and national sovereignty. Part
of the crux of his discussion was around the GM discussion. Clearly
the World Food Programme, our colleagues in FAO and at the World
Health Organisation, have a joint statement in terms of health
and the implications of GM. The unanswered question still has
to do with potential damages to the environment. I think at the
end of the day governments have to be accountable for the decisions
that they take. This GM question is very contentious and it has
certainly not made delivering assistance any easier, particularly
in Zambia. We have to continue to work with the governments, to
give as much scientific evidence as possible. I think many statements,
such as that of the Special Rapporteur, are based on disinformation,
lack of information, and not enough information. I think we still
have an obligation to do more on that side as we continue to talk
74. I was of course expecting to go on to discuss
Zambia, and I will do so. May I again pay tribute to your staff
in country in Zambia. In my two visits there I was very impressed
with the work you are doing and mystified at the decision of the
Government of Zambia not to accept milled GM maize. My colleague
quoted a newspaper article from last Thursday and it was a quite
extraordinary article in terms of the justification that was given
by the Zambian scientists in terms of the information they received
from this country from a number of sources. You may wish to give
us a rebuttal in a separate paper in terms of that article in
the Daily Telegraph last Thursday.
What are the consequences of the Government of Zambia's decision
not to accept GM food for Zambia for the region and how far have
you got in terms of being able to procure non-GM food?
(Ms Lewis) First of all, I should flag
up that not only are they not accepting non-GM grain, they have
refused corn soya blend which is essential for supplementary and
therapeutic uses because it is soya-bean based. They also have
declined US oil because it is a soya-based oil, so none of the
resources from the United States Government have been accepted
for Zambia. As you rightly point out, the stress and strain of
trying to secure non-GM goes on. We are spending all of our cash
resources that are not tied. The total Japanese pledge, the Dutch
pledge, part of the EU recent contributions has gone to buy white
maize in South Africa.
75. But some 80 per cent of the maize in South
Africa is GM maize.
(Ms Lewis) That is absolutely correct and now they
are even requiring that we have tests done on the white maize
so the time delay that is involved is staggering. The other issue
is we cannot get export licences from the Government of Zambia
to move out the GM food which is in country. We could have as
much as a 14-day delay on getting the import of the food that
they have already accepted that is non-GM. It is mind boggling.
76. Could I ask if you would update your web
site regularly to post people as to what the true situation is
in Zambia. The reports on that are extremely worrying. What do
you feel the lessons are that the World Food Programme can learn
from the Zambian GM issue? When a sovereign government chooses
not to accept GM food, does it surrender its citizens' right to
food? I would hope not, but what is the situation?
(Ms Lewis) That seems to be the situation particularly
in Zambia but even in Zimbabwe the fact that they have agreed
to accept milled GM is not enough. We had found that the capacity
to mill inside Zimbabwe was much more efficient than southern
Africa's extraction rates. We were getting a 93 per cent extraction
rate from Bulawayo. We milled 10,000 tonnes there. When some of
the ministers found out that we had in fact transported the GM
to Bulawayo they told us we absolutely could not do that any more
so the wonderful efficiency that was going on in Zimbabwe has
been limited because the cabinet has taken the decision not to
let us transit the GM. So these kinds of decisions defy the thinking
from the humanitarian community and how we can do more with
77. And the lessons you are learning?
(Ms Lewis) The lesson we are learning is that we have
to have a good, sound, solid discussion about GM and the commodities
that are available before we go into humanitarian situations in
terms of what governments will and will not receive. We have to
be very clear with our cash donors that we are going to need more
cash in the future. We cannot depend on 50 per cent of commodities
come from the United States Government, so we have to do a lot
more effort and energy in discussions up-front before we get into
a humanitarian situation.
78. That sounds like another letter, this time
to the Zambian High Commissioner putting these matters. Then we
can advise him to ask his government to comment and report back
before we produce our report on what his government's line of
take is. Your last point really about not being able to have 50
per cent of food in kind from the United States raises this issue:
the most recent UN-OCHA consolidated inter-agency appeal for 2003
is asking for the equivalent of US $3 billion. These are now becoming
very large appeals and they have characteristics of being ad
hoc appeals each year. Have we now not got to the situation
whereby the international community is going to have to accept
that there is going to be a need each year for a certain amount
of humanitarian aid and each year regardless there should be a
baseline pledge that could be topped up as necessary, or carried
over miraculously if there was a year when there was not a need?
This present hand-to-mouth situation whereby you have to go out
on appeal, you then get pledges, pledges have to be turned into
commitments, commitments have to be turned into to food aid, food
aid has got to be got to the place, means you are always chasing
your tail, are you not?
(Ms Lewis) That is right. Certainly that would facilitate
planning and also the immediate response and you are absolutely
right, so many times we are running to catch up. Certainly this
is a very interesting concept. Would your Government be interested
in having these discussions?
79. We will have to ask in our report. Fortunately,
we do not have to have the responsibility of speaking for Her
Majesty's Government on this Committee. It is a matter for colleagues,
but I suspect when we come to the writing of our report it will
be one of the matters that we will want to look at. Just whilst
I am on this subject, frequently this Committee is talking about
responses of the international community and we have the United
States and we have the European Union and we have individual members
of the European Union like the United Kingdom and we have one
or two others such as Japan, but the world has many more countries
than that. So how about other countries in the Security Council,
what sort of contribution can you get either in cash or kind from
Russia or China? What contribution do you get in cash and kind
from rich countries like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries?
It seems we have a situation whereby we have got a very small
number of countries that seem to be carrying a disproportionate
burden in this.
(Ms Lewis) For this particular crisis we have had
about 35 donors. The problem is that you get $50,000 from Andorra.
One of the things that James Morris has focused on is the non-traditional
donors. He is very keen to engage other donors. He was recently
in Russia where they had pledged I forget how many tonnes of food,
but this was the first time ever. The million tonnes of wheat
from India as a recipient country, which is also giving for Afghanistan,
is a non-traditional approach. The only issue for non-traditional
donors, particularly for food in kind, for example the South African
pledge of 100,000 tonnes, is how do we resource the cash to move
that food and the accompanying costs that go with that? These
are things he is looking very carefully at in how we can work
with our cash donors to help us encourage non-traditional donors
to become involved. He is looking at this very, very closely.
Getting back to the Southern Africa crisis, what we are seeing
is there is a lot of interest, the problem is that the contributions
tend to be much much smaller than from your big donors.
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