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Zimbabwe Orders 'Save the Children' to Stop Feeding People

Zimbabwe's government has ordered the British-based charity Save the Children to stop feeding hungry people. The action follows the first reports of people dying of starvation in rural areas.

Save the Children Director Chris McIvor said he has appealed the government's decision. He said he met with government authorities Wednesday, and hopes the situation will be resolved.

Mr. McIvor said officials from the Department of Social Welfare told the organization it should stop feeding people in Binga, on the edge of Lake Kariba in arid northwest Zimbabwe. He said Save the Children stopped operations there October 5.

Mr. McIvor said there are 120,000 people needing food in the Binga area. He has no confirmed reports that anyone there has died. But reports of a few dozen deaths directly caused by starvation have been received from several parts of the country.

The U.N. World Food Program says it is seriously concerned about the closure of Save the Children's feeding program.

Save the Children was warned two weeks ago that its official status in Zimbabwe was in question. The charity has run feeding programs in Zimbabwe since the country's independence.

Three months ago, a human rights organization, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace was stopped from feeding people by so-called war veterans and government supporters.

Meanwhile, the state-controlled press quoted government officials as saying the British government is trying to increase food distribution in a district in the dry Matabeleland province. That region and the Binga area are political strongholds for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The British are accused of trying to influence non-governmental organizations to distribute more food to opposition supporters before a by-election on October 26. The British High Commission in Harare declined to comment.