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Half a million children in Zimbabwe need aid

GENEVA, June 13 – Some 500,000 Zimbabwean children are no longer getting the treatment and food they urgently need since the government suspended the work of humanitarian aid organisations, UNICEF said on Friday.

"Hundreds of thousand of children among the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe are today denied access to the aid they desperately need," said UNICEF spokeswoman Veronique Taveau.

Zimbabwe’s government provoked international outrage earlier this month by suspending all aid work after accusing NGOs of siding with the opposition.

This made an already dire situation even worse with "500,000 children no longer receiving health care, treatment for HIV/AIDS, aid towards education and the food that they need", said Taveau.

"Many of these children are orphans," she added.

Per Engebak, UNICEF’s Regional Director for east and southern Africa said the "level of suffering for these children is rising daily".

UNICEF called on the government to instigate a "complete and immediate resumption of programmes that are crucial for the country’s children".

President Robert Mugabe’s government said aid groups would only be allowed to resume operations if they pledged not to interfere in politics, accusing them of openly siding with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC) in the build-up to the June 27 voting.

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Mugabe lost the first round presidential vote on March 29 to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The pair are to contest a run-off on June 27.

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