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Human Rights Watch Urges Harare To Lift Ban On NGO Food Distribution

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged the Zimbabwean government to reverse its decision to bar most non-governmental distributions of food assistance although millions of people across the country are going hungry.

The group said the government ban on aid will leave hundreds of thousands of rural residents without basic foodstuffs. Harare has accused the organizations of using food aid to promote the opposition in the presidential run-off election coming up June 27.

Organizations affected by the government order included Care International, which had been feeding about one million Zimbabweans.

Human Rights Watch Zimbabwe specialist Tiseke Kisambala told Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that this latest development reflects the depth of the political crisis which has given rise to brutal violence in many rural districts.

Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization said food output by Zimbabwe will continue to plummet following a 44% decline in 2007, citing erratic rains and shortages of farm inputs such as fertilizer, fuel and seed. The U.N. agency made the forecast in a preliminary food security report drafted with the World Food Program.

For a first-hand view of the food crisis on the ground, reporter Patience Rusere spoke with Ririto Siziba of Zvishavane, Midlands province, whose parents were beneficiaries of Care International until its operations were halted three weeks ago.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...