With many people in Zimbabwe at the point of starvation, a government
ban on field work by relief organizations is putting them at further
risk. As Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA, even if the restrictions
are lifted now, humanitarian groups say it would take until September
for emergency relief efforts to begin.
In early June, ZANU-PF
welfare minister, Nicholas Goche, banned all field work in Zimbabwe by
international aid agencies, accusing them of political meddling by
providing campaign support for the opposition party, the Movement for
Democratic Change in the March 29 elections.
Aid agencies deny they gave any support for the MDC, which won the parliamentary vote.
Devastating news for a country, where nearly four million people, or a third of the population, relies on food aid.
local food distribution agencies are warning that the Western donated
food - some of it stored in the South African port of Durban for
delivery to Zimbabwe - will have to be diverted to other countries if
the ban is not lifted immediately.
A spokesman for one of the
largest distributing agencies in Zimbabwe said Friday the ban is still
firmly in place despite warnings from humanitarian agencies. He said
that when the ban was imposed, many organizations had to dismantle
their distribution networks.
As a result, he doubts the
infrastructure could be restored for emergency feeding programs before
September, even if the the ban was lifted immediately.
to several key distribution agencies, emergency feeding programs are
not usually necessary between April and October because of the summer
harvest. But, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network recently issued
an emergency statement saying Zimbabwe had its worst ever crops.
According to FEWSNET between a third and half the population will need
food aid before next year's harvest.
There is little food
available in the shops here and even on the black market there is
little of the staple food, corn meal, available.
People on the
streets in Harare and money traders said there was almost no cash
available Friday since the central bank chopped off 10 zeros from its
currency on Wednesday.
In addition to food, the relief
agencies provide clean water, medical care and other services. Of
particular concern are people suffering from HIV/AIDS. Many are on
treatment programs and are no longer getting their anti retrovirals