Zimbabwe aid suspension threatens 400,000 children assisted by World Vision



    MISSISSAUGA, ON, June 13 /CNW/ - World Vision, the largest humanitarian
organization in Zimbabwe, is warning that relief and development work
supporting the country's most vulnerable children will be undone unless a
government order suspending aid work is revoked.
    World Vision is appealing to the Zimbabwean government to allow the
delivery of basic humanitarian assistance to resume by immediately reversing
its decision to suspend non-governmental organization (NGO) operations.
    The suspension order, issued on June 4, is preventing some 33 local and
international NGOs from delivering food, education, water and sanitation,
health care services and agricultural development, and from performing many
other activities essential to the survival and well-being of communities in
Zimbabwe.
    Up to four million people are now estimated to be in need of aid.
    "As a child-focused organization, we are particularly concerned for the
close to 400,000 children we would have assisted this month through
school-feeding and our on-going development work," said Wilfred Mlay, vice
president of Africa for World Vision. "We hold grave concerns for the 1.6
million orphans and vulnerable children across the country who will now not
receive critical assistance from humanitarian agencies operating in the
country. The suspension of such operations will undermine and negate the
substantial efforts and commitment invested in improving the lives of these
children.
    "We are also deeply concerned about the fate of Zimbabweans who do not
have regular access to food and who have to date been largely reliant on
assistance from NGOs," said Mlay.

    Safety-net feeding

    World Vision's plan to begin safety-net feeding in vulnerable communities
next month-projected to assist 720,000 people at the peak of distributions-is
now in jeopardy.
    Mlay said it is crucial that both international and regional actors do
everything in their power to help the men, women and children of Zimbabwe. "In
particular, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the Africa
Union, both of which have emphasized the role of civil society in the
development of our countries, must engage the government of Zimbabwe and
persuade it to allow NGOs to do their work.
    "If steps are not taken immediately to end this crisis in Zimbabwe and to
reinstate the work of NGOs, then the future for the country's most vulnerable
citizens, its children, looks very bleak indeed."

    Election re-run

    The order also comes at a time of increased reports of violence in the
run-up to the election re-run due to be held later this month. It is well
known that conflict and violence undermine development.
    "Canadians can help by joining World Vision and the international
community in urging Zimbabwe's political leaders to promote a free, fair and
peaceful electoral process," said Dave Toycen, president and CEO of World
Vision Canada.
    World Vision has been working in Zimbabwe since 1973. Currently 74,000
children are sponsored through World Vision, including 10,000 children
sponsored by Canadians.
    "These children and their families need our continued support more than
ever," said Toycen.

    World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization
dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome
poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion,
race, ethnicity or gender.





For further information:

For further information: To interview Dave Toycen, World Vision Canada
president and CEO, or regional staff, please contact: Yoko Kobayashi, (905)
565-6200 ext. 2151, (416) 671-0086 (cell), yoko_kobayashi@WorldVision.ca;
Britt Hamilton, (905) 565-6200 ext. 3973, (416) 275-1057 (cell),
britt_hamilton@WorldVision.ca


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