Ban on aid organisations means life or death

By Tererai Karimakwenda
June 06, 2008
The Zimbabwe government's decision to ban the operations of humanitarian aid
organisations has very serious consequencies for the beneficiaries of their

These groups provide food and other vital necessities to the most

vulnerable. Bob Muchabaiwa, programmes director for the umbrella National

Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, said they serve a wide cross

section of the poorest, most marginalised people.  This includes young

orphans, abused children, those living with HIV/AIDs, the disabled, widows

and the elderly. For many the suspension of services is a matter of life or


Muchabaiwa said the country has 1.4 million AIDS orphans, the majority of

them supported by NGOs and according to UNICEF more than 10,000 children

were displaced by the recent election-related violence. Over 80% of the

population is unemployed and they need accommodation, food, medical

assistance and much more.

Zimbabwe recently received support from the Global Aids Fund and it is

predominantly NGOs that distribute vital ARVs to those living with HIV and

Aids. Muchabaiwa said: “If you skip your ARVs for a month then try to start

up again, you may develop a stronger more deadly strain.”

NGOs were not given a chance to present their side of the story and

Muchabaiwa believes that the government should have appointed an

investigating officer and afforded them an opportunity to respond to the

allegations that they are helping the MDC. In his speech at the Food Summit

in Rome this week, Mugabe repeated the allegations claiming that the NGOs

are ‘a creation of the West’. But it is Mugabe and his government who

destroyed agriculture by illegally evicting commercial farmers.

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and

Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, on Friday said the ban ‘goes

against fundamental humanitarian principles’. He added: ‘Humanitarian

agencies are guided by the principles of neutrality and impartiality, their

mandate being only to alleviate the suffering of people in distress,’

Meanwhile the EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel called on

Zimbabwe to immediately lift it’s ban on aid organisations. Michel is quoted

as saying: “I am deeply distressed to think that hundreds of thousands of

people who depend on aid from the European Commission and others for their

very survival, now face an even more uncertain future.”

SWRadio Africa

Post published in: Opinions

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