PRAETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — International aid agency Oxfam remains cautiously optimistic about resuming humanitarian aid in Zimbabwe, following discussions with government officials. Oxfam this week will begin to re-establish operations in Zimbabwe, scaling-up to deal with the massive humanitarian crisis in accordance with the internationally agreed humanitarian quality standards.
Aid agencies and NGOs met with the Zimbabwean government on 1 September following the lifting of the ban on field operations put in place on 4 June. Under ?operation modalities? stipulated by the Zimbabwean government all aid agencies and local NGOs are required to share their registration information in areas where they are operational and complete a ?monitoring and evaluation? form.
Charles Abani, regional Oxfam director, said: ?Oxfam recognizes the importance of transparency and accountability. However, we hope that this process is not used to constrain actions or actors who support the needs of poor and vulnerable people in Zimbabwe. We are also concerned that the lifting of the ban appears partial. We urge the Zimbabwean government to extend full permission to all civil society organizations to operate in Zimbabwe.?
?The impact of our work will be greatly enhanced once government grants universal access for all organizations working with affected communities in Zimbabwe.?
If food aid is not resumed, widespread hunger and worsening malnutrition will be unavoidable. Reports from the Zimbabwe Crop and Food Security Assessment indicate that without humanitarian assistance, 5.1 million people, or 43 per cent of Zimbabwe's population, will not have enough to eat by January 2009. Due to chronic underinvestment in public services infrastructure, there is also a growing risk of water- and sanitation-related diseases such as cholera.
Food insecurity is not just limited to rural areas, but is now also a real threat to poor urban families. Following the lifting of the ban, Oxfam plans to scale-up its work 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. Oxfam will also begin work on preventing diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, brought on by deteriorating water and sanitation conditions.