Millions starving as banned humanitarian food aid begins to rot
By Alex Bell
25 August 2008
Stockpiles of food desperately needed by a starving nation is beginning to rot in warehouses, as the Zimbabwean government ban on food aid remains firmly in place.
The ban was announced during the run up to the election run-off in June, after ‘Welfare’ Minister Nicholas Goche accused aid groups of supporting the MDC’s campaign during the first round of elections in March. A partial lifting of the ban was announced later, but only for groups providing assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed between ZANU PF and the MDC last month called for the lifting of all restrictions on the work of aid groups. A subsequent joint statement condemning violence also called for all humanitarian assistance to be allowed into the country and for aid to reach thousands of victims of political violence.
But despite the statements and agreements, aid agencies have remained barred from operating in Zimbabwe, leaving millions of Zimbabweans, with no other resources, to face the reality of starvation.
In rural areas of Mashonaland East and Manicaland maize supplies have dried up and households that previously produced maize on their homestead plots have been hit by poor harvests, made worse by the lack of fertiliser. At the same time, the Zimbabwe Crop and Food Security Assessment report says the number of people in need could rise to five million by January because of the poor crop projections. Meanwhile in comparatively wealthy areas such Harare, food is becoming increasingly scarce, and because of a severe currency shortage, people cannot buy basic food to survive.