Oxfam responds to announcement that ban on NGOs in Zimbabwe will be lifted

“The humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe needs urgent attention.”
Charles Abani
Oxfam’s Regional Director
Published: 29 August 2008

Aid agency Oxfam today cautiously welcomed the announcement by the government of Zimbabwe that the ban on aid agencies and NGOs involved in humanitarian and development work would be lifted with immediate effect.

Oxfam was forced to suspend all fieldwork in Zimbabwe on the orders of the government on June 4th this year. The ban prohibited the distribution of food to more than 2 million Zimbabweans in urgent need. Plans to deliver seeds and livestock for the next agricultural season were also put on hold.

Oxfam’s regional director, Charles Abani said: “We welcome this announcement, as the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe needs urgent attention. Without the immediate resumption of food aid across the country, widespread hunger and worsening malnutrition will be unavoidable. Water and sanitation services are also in dire need of support.”

Zimbabwe’s public service ministry has called a meeting on Monday [1 Sept] with aid agencies and local NGOs “to clarify operation modalities”.

Said Abani: “We hope that these ‘modalities’ will not involve restrictions on aid agencies or local civil society. It is vital that non-governmental actors are given the space to deliver on their mandates of support to poor and vulnerable Zimbabweans.”

Given Zimbabwe's economic collapse, food insecurity is not just limited to rural areas, but is now also a real threat to poor urban families. Oxfam plans to assist more than 500 000 people with food aid in Midlands and Masvingo Provinces, as well as in several urban centres across the country including Harare and Bulawayo. The agency is also planning work on preventing diseases such as diarrhea and cholera, brought on by deteriorating water and sanitation conditions. Oxfam also intends to resume work with a range of local development partners.

“We are keen to support the Zimbabwe authorities to respond quickly to the humanitarian crisis. Going forward, we would also like to work with Zimbabwean partners on longer-term recovery and reconstruction projects,” said Abani.