Home International Zimbabwe”s decision to halt NGO activities unconscionable act – UN official

Zimbabwe”s decision to halt NGO activities unconscionable act – UN official


Geneva : High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said Friday that the Zimbabwe government’s decision to halt food distribution by some international aid agencies until after the presidential elections was an unconscionable act.

“To deprive people of food because of an election would be an extraordinary perversion of democracy, and a serious breach of international human rights law,” said Arbour.

All UN agencies concerned expressed the same worry of Arbour.

The spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) Elizabeth Byrs told reporters that four million people who receive food aid will be affected by this decision.

She explained that the 2007 appeal of USD 317 million was only funded by 17 percent and added that increased resources are urgently needed given the increasingly difficult humanitarian situation in the country.

Byrs said that 56.1 percent of the population lives on less than one US dollar per day, life expectancy stands at 35 years and that 3200 people die per week because of HIV/AIDS.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also expressed its concern about the situation and this decision and the impact it could have on children. Zimbabwe’s children are already suffering on multiple fronts.

UNICEF spokesperson in Geneva Veronique Taveau told reporters that to see their situation further deteriorate through stopping aid workers from delivering relief to those in need is unacceptable.

“We are now talking about more than 185,000 children who won’t get the support they need – in education, health care, nutrition. To see their suffering increase as a result of the current political tension, through violence or displacement or being unable to receive the aid that is planned and paid for, is a violation of child rights and contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” she added.

Zimbabwe’s children are currently suffering an orphan emergency and economic crisis. One in four children is orphaned and their plight is worsened by official 160,000 percent inflation and growing economic stress on all families.

Taveau said that some 10,000 children are among the displaced by election-related violence.

Spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Jemini Pandya noted that the organization’s programs in favor of the internally displaced in Manikaland province will be heavily affected.