World Health Organisation criticised for letting Mugabe open food conference</span></strong></p> <p><span class="entrybold"><strong>By Tererai Karimakwenda<br> 03 October 2005</strong></span><strong><br> </strong></p> <p class="entry"><br> In a surprising development, a regional conference on food safety for Africa jointly organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) was officially opened by Robert Mugabe in Harare on Monday. <br> In his opening speech, Mugabe defended land seizures as a way of bringing "food to the people". He said: "In our fight for freedom and independence, one of the pillars of the struggle was land grievance -- land, land, land, which means food, food, food to the people,". But it is the land reform exercise that has been blamed for Zimbabwe's food shortages. And in a United Nations report, Mugabe's "Operation Murambatsvina" was blamed for destroying the livelihoods of thousands of people who now have no income to buy food with.<br> To many Zimbabweans who are starving it is a slap in the face from these international organisations to allow the one person they hold responsible for their suffering to open this conference on food safety and stability. <br> Mugabe lied in a BBC Television interview last year when he said Zimbabwe had enough food and no-one would go hungry. As shortages became more apparent, he was forced to admit starvation was an issue, yet he remained stubborn about asking the international community for help. MDC shadow minister for agriculture Renson Gasela criticised the FAO and WHO for allowing Mugabe to address the regional food conference. He asked what someone like that would talk about when Zimbabweans are starving and dying. Gasela blamed Mugabe's land reform exercise for killing agriculture in Zimbabwe. He said the delegates will see what they choose to see in Harare, but the signs of hunger are clearly there.<br> 47 African countries, seven international organisations and more than 170 delegates have come together for the conference, which aims to endorse the first ever food safety action plan for Africa. The idea is ultimately to protect consumers' health and develop stable food trade relations among member states. Mugabe has destabilised the region by forcing many people to flee and seek jobs, shelter and food outside Zimbabwe. This has drained resources in other countries, leading to criticism of him opening such an important event.<br> Furthermore, it is reported that waterborne diseases cause an estimated 700 000 deaths in Africa, a third of the world's food related illnesses. Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a serious water crisis due to broken pumps and rotting pipes that are bursting. Harare and Bulawayo have introduced water rationing, and many high-density areas have had no water for months. With residents drinking water from untreated sources and toilets going unflushed, it is feared that a serious health crisis is also looming. </p> <p></p> <p class="entry"><br> </p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="entry" valign="top" height="44"><span class="title_sub">SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news</span></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="entry" valign="top" height="6"> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="entry" valign="top"> </td> </tr> </table> </td> </tr> </table> </body> </html>