Zimbabwe Lifts Ban on Groups Providing HIV/AIDS, Food Services
Zimbabwe has lifted the suspension of field work for nongovernmental organizations involved in HIV/AIDS and supplementary feeding services, The Herald/AllAfrica.com reports. In a letter sent to the NGOs on Friday, Sydney Mhishi -- acting secretary for Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare -- said that the provision of antiretroviral drugs and food supplies is not affected by the recent suspension because such activities do not constitute community mobilization (The Herald/AllAfrica.com, 6/18).
The government earlier this month suspended all field work after accusing NGOs of siding with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change ahead of the election. Tsvangirai defeated President Robert Mugabe in the first round of the election. Zimbabwe's Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche said the government ordered NGOs to suspend their work because they were violating the terms of their agreement with the government. Zimbabwe's National Association of Nongovernmental Organizations said that the government's order would particularly endanger people living with HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/10).
"The suspension does not prohibit those on [antiretroviral] therapy and those benefiting from home-based care programs to continue accessing drugs and therapeutic feeding from clinics and hospitals," Mhishi said, adding, "Supplementary feeding is a community-based program which does not entail community mobilization by NGOs; hence, it falls outside those affected by the suspension."
The letter was sent after the government met with NGOs last Thursday to clarify the definition of field operations, as well as to discuss the reasons for and duration of the suspension (The Herald/AllAfrica.com, 6/18). Mugabe also met recently with United Nations officials to evaluate the political situation ahead of the run-off election (AFP/Google.com, 6/18). According to Mhishi, other suspended NGOs will be permitted to resume operations when investigations are completed.
NANGO Communications Manager Fambai Ngirande welcomed the announcement and said he hopes that the lifting of the suspension will be extended to all NGOs. More than 400 NGOs are involved in HIV/AIDS work in the country, according to The Herald/AllAfrica.com (The Herald/AllAfrica.com, 6/18).