Ban asks Mugabe to lift restrictions on relief work in Zimbabwe

August 15th, 2008 - 11:10 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Aug 15 (DPA) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked the government of Zimbabwe to immediately end the ban on international humanitarian assistance in the country. President Robert Mugabe, under attack for the violence in the presidential elections in May, retaliated by imposing severe restrictions on NGOs and private voluntary groups to assist large populations affected by the violence.

In June, Ban asked Mugabe to lift the curbs on relief groups, but Mugabe did not reply.

“These groups have a vital role in the delivery of humanitarian aid, including much-needed food assistance,” Ban said Thursday in a statement.

“Due to their inability to operate, only 280,000 people of the 1.5 million in need of food assistance are being reached with distributions.”

The statement said: “This ban must be lifted immediately so that aid organisations can carry out their relief work and avert a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

“I call on the government of Zimbabwe to fully respect humanitarian principles and the impartiality and neutrality of voluntary and non-governmental organisations, allowing them to operate freely and with unrestricted access to those in need.”

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