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Zimbabwe Government Lifts NGO Food Aid Ban For HIV/AIDS Programs


The Zimbabwean government said Monday that it is partially lifting the ban it imposed in June on the distribution of food assistance by nongovernmental organizations so as to allow those groups seeing to the nutritional needs of HIV/AIDS patients to restart their programs.

The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare said it agreed with the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare to let non-governmental organizations involved in feeding HIV-AIDS patients resume their work as soon as possible. Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told VOA letters are being sent to district and provincial administrators telling them to authorize such activities.

The government banned NGO food distribution in June, accusing such groups of campaigning for the opposition ahead of a June 27 presidential run-off ballot. The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development last week urged the Harare government to lift the ban, shortly after a similar call by the European Union in the context of power-sharing negotiations.

Parirenyatwa said the letters were being distributed this week to expedite matters, and that NGOs wishing to resume feeding programs for those battling HIV/AIDS should present themselves to local administrators and request the appropriate authorization.

Parirenyatwa told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the policy change recognized HIV/AIDS patients need good food as well as the right medicine.

Meanwhile, a World Food Program official said the United Nations agency is in talks with Harare to provide more aid despite the ban on NGO distribution.

Spokesman Richard Lee said that although WFP distributions are currently at a relatively low level it is clear that many more people in Zimbabwe will need aid by early 2009.

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