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Food in Zimbabwe runs low

18 October 2007

by Pat Ashworth

Poverty bites: above left: Sifiso (40) with her daughters Mandla (16 months), Brenda (5), and son Persuadance (15), at Gum Tree, a suburb of Bulawayo; above right: Sifiso discusses her family’s desperate situation with Thabani, a monitoring and evaluation officer for a Tearfund partner agency in Zimbabwe Marcus Perkins/Tearfund

Poverty bites: above left: Sifiso (40) with her daughters Mandla (16 months), Brenda (5), and son Persuadance (15), at Gum Tree, a suburb of Bu...

TEARFUND launched an emergency appeal this week to help churches in Zimbabwe provide for the most desperate families in what is now generally acknowledged to be a humanitarian disaster.

Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are running out of food. The World Food Programme reports that soon millions more will be reliant on humanitarian assistance. It predicts that numbers will rise from the 300,000 it currently feeds to an estimated 3.3 million from November.

“Churches are working tirelessly to bridge the gap, meeting the acute needs,” says the international director of Tearfund, Peter Grant. “Despite the spiralling economic crisis, they are bringing relief and hope. But they urgently need our help for this work to continue.”

Health services have collapsed, and malnutrition, unsafe water and sanitation, and the wretched state of hospitals threaten even healthy Zimbabweans. More than one million children are living with HIV/AIDS, but treatment is available only to Zanu-PF supporters.

Christian groups joined exiles from the country on Saturday to hold their biggest ever vigil outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London, marking five years of protest against human-rights abuses. A petition to EU governments, handed to Kate Hoey MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, said: “We record our dismay at the failure of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help the desperate people of Zimbabwe at their time of trial.

“We urge the UK Government, and the European Union in general, to suspend government-to-government aid to all 14 SADC countries until they abide by their joint commitment to uphold human rights in the region.”

Gordon Brown and the Foreign Secretary, Ed Miliband, will boycott the December summit of the EU and the 53 countries of the African Union if President Mugabe is invited (News, 21 September).

Mr Miliband has said that: “There is widespread horror at the situation in Zimbabwe.

  “This is certainly not a bilateral UK and Zimbabwe issue. It is an EU and Zimbabwe issue.”

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