4 million starving in Zimbabwe - Rudd must push G8 for action

Sydney, July 8, 2008. 'More than 4 million people face imminent starvation in Zimbabwe due to the crumbling agricultural sector, shattered economy and brutal political crackdowns, says Caritas Australia.

'As Australian Prime Minister heads to the G8 meeting in Japan today Caritas called on the Australian PM Kevin Rudd to push the G8 to avert the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe' said Caritas CEO Jack de Groot.

'The situation on the ground in Zimbabwe is beyond critical. More than 4 million people reliant on food aid are now starving since aid agencies were evicted. This crisis is spreading as shops throughout the country have completely run out of produce. We can not let the people of Zimbabwe just die in the streets. The international community must come to their rescue.

'The people of Zimbabwe are the losers here in this political game of stand off between the dictatorial Mugabe's regime and the international community. The humanitarian imperative must come first.'

A Caritas partner in Harare said 'Food is critical; there is nothing in the shops, even if people did have any money left. Inflation is being reported here as running at over 9 million per cent. We are desperate.'

A source who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals said 'During the run off on June 27th many people from the rural area decided to put a false ballot or not even vote. These people's lives are now in grave danger. The security (forces) have already started going into the villages and arresting people. Many have fled from their homes and are now displaced. The violence is increasing every day even after the run off vote of June 27th.'

There are practical things that the G8 can do to stave off this humanitarian crisis, firstly they must assure humanitarian access to the starving millions so humanitarian agencies can deliver urgent food aid and medical assistance. The G8 leaders need to urgently work with the African leaders to ensure the humanitarian imperative in Zimbabwe is addressed.

Caritas partners in Zimbabwe have cancelled much of their work due to the authoritarian controls being implemented by the Mugabe regime, but are continuing to assist those in urgent need where they can.

An anonymous aid worker said 'Zimbabweans have no freedom of speech. Priests can't even preach in their own parishes, law and order has completely dissolved'.

For more information of for interviews, please contact Tim O'Connor 0417 284 831