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Medair forced to leave Zimbabwe in spite of worsening humanitarian crisis
Medair - Switzerland
November 26, 2004

It is with real sadness that after 2 years Medair has this week left Zimbabwe. The final move which forced the decision was the refusal by the Zimbabwean government to issue work permits for our 2 remaining senior expatriate staff members.

This follows months in which we had seen our temporary registration to continue our school feeding programmes in Gokwe North and Mudzi districts expire and not be renewed despite our best efforts, and all remaining expatriate staff refused work permits. Unable to work and consequently to fund our continued presence, we were left with no choice but to finally withdraw from the country.

The timing of this decision is all the more significant because of the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation within the country. On the 15th of November the Famine Early Warning System Network for Zimbabwe (FEWS) reasserted their prediction that 2.2 million rural households would require food aid before the end of the year. Indeed, earlier this month World Food Programme (WFP) reported falling school attendances in Mudzi district as parents took their children out of school to work in the fields or find food. This was highlighted as a direct result of the halting of the Medair school feeding programme in August after our registration renewal was refused by the government.

'We'd really hoped to continue the school feeding programme in partnership with WFP, 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', said Mark Screeton, Medair Desk Officer for Zimbabwe.

At this time of great need our thoughts remain with the beneficiaries we have tried to serve in Zimbabwe over the last 2 years, and with our great local staff who have worked tirelessly, and who now find themselves unemployed at a time of national economic crisis.

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