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Zimbabwe suspension of aid work threatens children

Zimbabwe's children threatened by suspension of aid work, says World Vision

Monday, 16 June 2008

World Vision International has warned that progress from relief and development activities among the country's most vulnerable children will be undone unless a Government order suspending aid work there is revoked.

World Vision, which has projects in 26 districts across the country, is appealing to the Government to allow delivery of basic humanitarian assistance by immediately reversing its decision to suspend Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) operations.

"As a child-focused organisation, we are particularly concerned for the close to 400,000 children we would have assisted this month through our ongoing relief and development work. We hold grave concerns for the 1.6 million orphans and vulnerable children across the country who will now not receive critical assistance from humanitarian agencies operating in the country," said World Vision's Vice President for the Africa Region, Professor Wilfred Mlay. "The suspension of such operations will undermine and negate the substantial efforts and commitment invested in improving the lives of these children.

"We are also concerned about the fate of Zimbabweans who do not have regular access to food and who have to date been largely reliant on assistance from NGOs," said Mlay.

World Vision's plans to begin safety-net feeding in vulnerable communities next month – projected to assist 720,000 people at the peak of distributions – are now in jeopardy.

"Therefore, we join all humanitarian NGOs in urging the Government to reverse the decision to suspend NGO operations and allow agencies to resume delivering basic humanitarian assistance to vulnerable children and communities throughout Zimbabwe," appealed Mlay.

The suspension order, issued on 4 June, is preventing 33 local and international NGOs from delivering food, education, water and sanitation, health care services and agricultural development, and from performing many other activities essential to the survival and well-being of communities in Zimbabwe. Up to four million people are now estimated to be in need of aid.

The order also comes at a time of increased reports of violence in the run-up to the election re-run due to be held later this month. It is well known that conflict and violence undermine development. Eager to see free, fair and non-violent elections, Ms. Sue Mbaya, The Advocacy Director for World Vision's Africa Region, said the organisation was also urging political leaders in Zimbabwe to demand that their supporters cease all acts of violence and intimidation and to restore and uphold peace.

Professor Mlay said it was crucial that both international and regional actors do everything in their power to help the men, women and children of Zimbabwe. "In particular, SADC and the Africa Union, both of which have emphasised the role of civil society in the development of our countries, must engage the Government of Zimbabwe and persuade it to allow NGOs to do their work.

"If steps are not taken immediately to end this crisis in Zimbabwe and to reinstate the work of NGOs, then the future for the country's most vulnerable citizens, its children, looks very bleak indeed."

· World Vision New Zealand has a partnership agreement with the World Food Programme (WFP) for the distribution of food aid in Zimbabwe. We contributed to 418MT tonnes of food being distributed between Aug 07 – April 08.
· There are over 8000 Zimbabwean immigrants in New Zealand; most of whom have arrived since 2004 when the NZ government announced a special immigration policy for those escaping the Mugabe regime.


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