May 29, 2015 / 11:08 AM / 5 years ago

U.N. says to raise $1.6 bln for Zimbabwe development

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe speaks during a press briefing at the Union building in Pretoria, April 8, 2015. Mugabe is on a two-day state visit to South Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

HARARE (Reuters) - The United Nations plans to raise $1.6 billion from donors to improve agriculture, food security, health and governance in Zimbabwe between 2016-2020, its representative in the southern African country said on Friday.

The U.N. has over the last decade taken a prominent role in raising money for humanitarian and development aid to Zimbabwe after the West withheld direct budget support in 2002 over policy differences with veteran President Robert Mugabe.

Western donors like United States and European Union funnel financial aid through charities and the U.N., leaving Zimbabwe to fund its budget from taxes because it does not qualify for international credit due to a foreign debt of $9 billion.

Bishow Palajuli, the U.N.’s resident coordinator in Zimbabwe said the global agency had raised $1.64 billion for its Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF) which started in 2012 and ends this year and was now seeking to do the same for the next four year period.

Parajuli however said donors were financially stretched, trying to cope with humanitarian crises around the world.

Early this month Zimbabwe asked for financial support from the West for the first time in a decade at a meeting with Western diplomats and international lenders.

The International Monetary Fund has predicted weaker growth in Zimbabwe after a drought hit farm output, while several companies are closing due to lack of credit, power shortages and competition from cheaper imports.

Zimbabwe will this year import 700,000 tonnes of the staple maize following the drought and officials from foreign relief agencies say up to 1.8 million people - more than a tenth of the population - may require food aid this year.

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