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NGOs ordered to stop operations in Zimbabwe

On 4 June Concern Worldwide, along with all non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Zimbabwe, received a letter from the Minister of Public Service instructing all field operations to be suspended until further notice.

Since March, NGOs already have to greatly curtail their activities and gatherings of people had not been permitted by the authorities. Now all humanitarian work has to stop.

NGOs will now be unable to reach those in need. Concern is worried about the tens of thousands of people who need essential humanitarian support. These include women and children, the elderly, the disabled and people living with HIV and AIDS. Planning should be underway in preparation for the next agricultural season. Harvest yields this year are worrying and it is clear that many people will not have enough food unless external aid is provided. The suspension of NGO activities will also prevent the provision of other essential services such as support to health clinics and access to medicines, including anti-retrovirals for those living with HIV and AIDS. 

Humanitarian principles

Concern works under terms of agreement with the government within the remit prescribed by, and in line with, the strategies of relevant line Ministries. Humanitarian principles have been followed in all operations with aid priorities based on need alone and independent of political, military or religious agendae.

Concern has abided by all Zimbabwean laws. To ensure Concern can reach those in need, it has stressed the non-partisan nature of aid provision at every point with staff teams, officials and communities. Additionally, all NGOs working on controversial issues such as food aid have encouraged the presence of local authorities to monitor work. At each food distribution, there is an address to the local community, stressing that food aid is not linked to any political party. If there are any specific charges relating to operations or members of staff in breach of agreement with government, then due process to have an opportunity to respond is followed.

Concern would like to underline its humanitarian mandate to work with those in need regardless of political affiliation. It is hoped that Concern’s track record and that of other NGOs, results in a speedy return to essential work. What does this mean? Finally, Concern hopes for a significant improvement in the security situation, enabling people to make the best of their lives in very difficult economic circumstances.

Background

Concern Worldwide began operations in Zimbabwe in response to the food emergency crisis of 2002-3. Concern has been operating as a fully registered private voluntary organisation recognised by the Government of Zimbabwe.

Concern runs programmes in three rural districts. In Gokwe North and South (Midlands Province) field activity had been reduced since the elections at the end of March. In Nyanga district (Manicaland Province) Concern has had to cease field activities in line
with a directive last Friday by the local authorities to all NGOs working in the Province

• Food distribution: this ran for six months during the hungry season and ended on 20 March with a monthly food ration for approximately 200,000 individuals. Concern along with other humanitarian organisations, is monitoring the situation in case new food distributions will be required later in the year. A significant food deficit is expected again this year due to the recent inadequate harvest

• Livelihood security programme: this targets rural communities with activities including conservation farming, seed and fertilizer distribution, seed fairs and communal nutrition gardens and reaches 124,000 individuals

• HIV and AIDS: This is a new programme aimed at reducing the transmission of HIV by supporting local organisations. Concern also supports hospital service provision . Income generating activities are provided, especially for female headed households. 37,000 people benefit from this programme.