Aid Organizations Say Zimbabwe Order Puts AIDS Patients at Risk
June 9, 2008
After an emergency meeting on Friday, Zimbabwe's National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations said the government's decision to suspend aid groups' work threatens the lives of HIV/AIDS patients. Starvation is also a big concern, NANGO and Western officials said.
On Thursday, President Robert Mugabe ordered NGOs to halt field work indefinitely, saying they were in breach of agreements. The government accused at least one group of supporting the opposition in the June 27 presidential runoff between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai.
In a statement, NANGO challenged the government to name the groups that have violated the terms of their agreement and specify the accusations against them.
The halting of private aid group operations leaves poor Zimbabweans dependant on the government and Mugabe's party, said Western officials. James McGee, US ambassador to the country, said Mugabe's regime is using food to cement its power. If the situation continues, "massive, massive starvation" will result, he said.
NANGO said another "direct impact of the ban will be that people living with HIV/AIDS will increasingly die since many NGOs provide assistance in the form of home-based care and antiretroviral medication."
The head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, called the decision "deplorable." More than 4 million Zimbabweans will be cut off from aid and more than 2 million will be at greater risk of disease, starvation and homelessness, the office estimated.
Douglas Alexander, Britain's foreign aid chief, said the move shows a "callous contempt for human life" on the part of Mugabe. He added that it is "offensive and absurd" for the government to accuse international aid groups of interfering in politics.
6.06.2008; Eliane Engeler
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