Zimbabwe Government Lifts Ban on Aid Groups; Organizations Still Face Difficulties Providing Assistance
Zimbabwe on Friday lifted an almost three-month ban on the work of aid groups in the country, which the government had imposed because it said some of the groups had supported the opposition to President Robert Mugabe, the New York Times reports (Dugger, New York Times, 8/30). However, some nongovernmental organizations attempting to provide HIV/AIDS-related assistance to people living with the disease in the country said that despite the removal of the ban, many of their would-be clients continue to go without aid.
VOA News reports that Zimbabwe's government imposed a ban on all NGOs in early June but backtracked in stages on restrictions in providing services to those living with HIV/AIDS. However, NGOs say the government's official communications on the removal of the ban did not arrive in a timely manner. In addition, the National Association of Non Governmental Organizations says the ban threatened the lives of HIV-positive people because their access to antiretroviral drugs and other forms of care was interrupted (Gombakomba, VOA News, 9/1).
According to the Standard/AllAfrica.com, although NANGO welcomed Friday's announcement, it said the removal of the ban could fail to bring about changes because of "selective application" and because there are no "tangible commitments by government to remove the bureaucratic, security, financial and other restrictions to effective humanitarian operations." NANGO spokesperson Fambai Ngirande also said there is need for "further clarification from the government" because the lift "characteristically excludes organizations operating in areas such as transitional justice, human rights, governance and democracy. It also does not recognize the inseparability of civil society's social, economic, cultural, political and civic responsibilities." Ngirande said the government needs to reform legislation that hampers the operations of NGOs (Sifile, Standard/AllAfrica.com, 8/30).
The Times reports that more than one million orphans, schoolchildren, elderly and other impoverished Zimbabweans were deprived of food and other basic assistance because of the ban and that NGOs will continue to face difficulties in providing assistance to those in need (New York Times, 8/30).
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the lift is a "positive development (which) will help ensure that neutral and impartial humanitarian assistance is provided to the people of Zimbabwe" (Standard/AllAfrica.com, 8/30).