Swiss NGO gives up


Gift Phiri

A SWISS charity, Medair, on Tuesday said it was pulling out of the country after government refused to renew work permits for its expatriate staff.



ONT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Medair communications officer Severine Flores told the Zimbabwe Independent: “We were a WFP implementing partner. We are disappointed at having to leave Zimbabwe at such a critical time. Medair provided up to 90 000 children in 150 schools with at least one daily meal. Very often it was the only meal they would get that day.”


Medair was banned from distributing World Food Programme (WFP)-supplied food aid in August. The non-governmental organisation (NGO) had applied for the renewal of work permits for its expatriate staff, but the applications were refused. Flores said they had received no explanation from the authorities.


“We were just not desired to be there, regrettably,” she said.

It was not possible to obtain comment from the Ministry of Social Welfare, as the permanent secretary, Lancaster Museka, had not responded to written questions he requested from the Independent.


Medair’s desk officer for Zimbabwe, Mark Screeton, said the organisation had hoped it would be able to continue the school-feeding programme.“But instead, we found ourselves prevented from distributing, and so the food has sat deteriorating in the warehouses since August. It’s been so frustrating — not being free to work — and now we leave, knowing the increasing food insecurity that faces those primary school children and their families,” Screeton said.


WFP spokesperson Makena Walker said the Medair pullout was “very unfortunate”.


“We are very much concerned that this has happened,” Walker said. “We are however looking for another implementing partner to take over from January next year. We have some food at a number of the schools to last until the end of term, but since there is no implementing partner there are delays at various schools — there’s no monitoring going on and no follow-ups. These delays are affecting the children.”


Screeton said Medair had operated in Zimbabwe for two years and its pull-out followed months “in which we had seen our temporary registration to continue our school feeding programmes in Gokwe North and Mudzi expire and not be renewed, despite our best efforts”. He noted: “The timing of this decision is all the more significant because of the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation within the country.”

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