While power-sharing talks over the political crisis in Zimbabwe appear to have stalled, the humanitarian crisis there continues. African leaders attending the recent peace and security forum in Johannesburg say the session brought Zimbabwe leaders closer together on forming a new government, but did not entirely close the gap between them. While the parties decide their next moves, President Robert Mugabe can and should act now to allow aid workers to bring his people the assistance they desperately need.
With a badly suffering economy and astronomical inflation, Zimbabweans are in dire straits. The United Nations reported that in the coming months nearly five million people there will require emergency food aid. Thousands more were forced from their homes in the state-sponsored violence that followed the March 29 presidential voting. By almost all accounts, the political crisis is matched by human suffering that is worsening by the day. Moreover, continuing the ban on humanitarian assistance into the imminent planting season will impede the timely provision of essential agricultural inputs, threatening to prolong the crisis and delay any recovery for another year.
Despite this, Mr. Mugabe's regime continues to block most nongovernmental organizations from providing assistance. The memorandum of understanding that set up the power-sharing talks stipulated that aid groups be allowed to do their work, but they continue to be restricted in their offices under government orders.
Mr. Mugabe was brought to the bargaining table by international pressure, and it is hoped that the continued demands of the international community will make him see what is in his and his nation's best interest. The aid ban should be lifted now, the safety and security of all humanitarian workers should be guaranteed, and the rights of all affected people to move freely to seek and receive aid should be respected.