Children starve and suffer as Mugabe's aid ban bites
Saturday, 14 June 2008 21:29
THEY are the new casualties of President Robert Mugabe's desperate clampdown on political dissent – up to half a million Zimbabwean children left without health care and food. The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, warned yesterday Zimbabwe's ban on international aid groups and NGOS in the country has left hundreds of thousands of children helpless.
"The net effect is as many as 500,000 children are now not receiving the health care, HIV/AIDS support, education assistance and food that they require. Many of these children are orphans," UNICEF said in a statement.
Last week Zimbabwe's government banned international organisations doing fieldwork. Mr Mugabe accused the West of using them to channel funds to the opposition ahead of the 27 June presidential run-off vote.
The charity World Vision, which has projects across Zimbabwe, echoed UNICEF's concerns and appealed to Zimbabwe's government to reverse the suspension. "As a child- focused organisation, we are particularly concerned for the close to 400,000 children we would have assisted this month through school-feeding and our ongoing development work," Wilfred Mlay, the vice-president for Africa for World Vision, said in a statement.
"We hold grave concerns for the 1.6 million orphans and vulnerable children across the country who will now not receive critical assistance." Mr Mugabe raised the stakes yesterday in the election, where the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, could topple him after 28 years in power. He told supporters at a rally that liberation war veterans had come to his office and asked him if they should take up arms to stop the MDC.
"It will never happen that this land which we fought for should be taken by the MDC so that they can give it back to our former oppressors, the whites," he was quoted as saying in the state-controlled press.
On the same day, the vice- president, Joseph Msika, told villagers in the south-western town of Zaka that a vote for the MDC would mean "voting for war".
Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, called for an end to "violence and repression" in Zimbabwe yesterday in a meeting with the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon.
More than 50 people had been killed, with 2,000 arrests in the country, he said. He called for UN agencies and election workers to be allowed to work there.
Opposition officials were desperately trying to locate MDC secretary general Tendai Biti, who has not been seen since he was bundled into a car at the Harare International Airport on Thursday, saying they feared for his safety.
Meanwhile, police published a list of seven more MDC MPs they say they want to question on allegations of "public violence".
Seven years of food shortages and record inflation have left many Zimbabweans bitterly joking they're surviving on 0-0-1: no meal in the morning, none at midday and just one in the evening.
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party lost both presidential and parliamentary elections on 29 March. However, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change did not win enough votes for an outright victory, forcing a second presidential round on 27 June.
The MDC blames Mugabe for Zimbabwe's economic collapse. Inflation is at least 165,000 per cent and unemployment 80 per cent, with chronic food and fuel shortages. ZANU-PF has deployed security forces, war veterans and youth militia in a campaign of violence to cripple Mr Tsvangirai's chances, it is claimed. Police have detained Mr Tsvangirai four times and arrested hundreds of activists, union leaders and journalists. Mr Tsvangirai claims 66 of his supporters have been murdered.