World Health Organisation criticised
for letting Mugabe open food conference
By Tererai Karimakwenda
03 October 2005
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.