AJWS Condemns Detention of Zimbabwe's Opposition Leader and Crackdown on International Humanitarian Community

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International Development Group Fears That Zimbabwe Will Become 'World's Next Humanitarian Tragedy'.

Not long ago, Zimbabwe was considered the 'breadbasket' of the region. But today, this is very much a nation in crisis. The work of our colleagues in the international aid community is critical in restoring stability and preventing what could easily become the world's next humanitarian tragedy.

Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), today issued a statement regarding the police detention of Zimbabwe's opposition political leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and the government's crackdown on international humanitarian organizations operating inside the country.

In her statement Messinger said the following:

"As an organization that promotes democracy and the empowerment of individuals to shape the course of their own communities and government policies, AJWS is deeply concerned that Mr. Tsvangirai was taken into police custody just weeks before the run-off election between himself and Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe. By all credible accounts, Mr. Tsvangirai has been campaigning peacefully, and the people of Zimbabwe have an inalienable right to choose their next leader in an open, peaceful and fair election. This form of intimidation is unacceptable.

"We are also extremely troubled by reports that several international humanitarian organizations have been ordered by the government to curtail or temporarily shut down operations until after the run-off election. Unemployment has reached 80%; inflation is at more that 160,000%; and nearly 2 million people in Zimbabwe suffer from AIDS. Increased hunger, due to skyrocketing food prices and political turmoil, has led to a surge in violence that has reportedly displaced more than 10,000 children."

For more than 10 years, AJWS has been supporting grassroots projects in Zimbabwe focusing on sustainable development, women's empowerment, HIV prevention and support for people with AIDS and their families. While the crackdown on international humanitarian organizations has not affected any of its grantees, AJWS fears that the increased inability of the international humanitarian community to operate in Zimbabwe will lead to disastrous consequences.

Messinger said: "Not long ago, Zimbabwe was considered the 'breadbasket' of the region. But today, this is very much a nation in crisis. The work of our colleagues in the international aid community is critical in restoring stability and preventing what could easily become the world's next humanitarian tragedy."

About AJWS
American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaism's imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. Through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community.

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