Chingwizi needs urgent intervention

HARARE - Some of the families forced by floods to leave their land from which they were sustaining their livelihoods in Tokwe-Mukorsi flood basin, are now trying to survive by working as daily wage labourers in Triangle.

We reiterate, the situation has become incredibly desperate after officers from the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) destroyed tents at the camp last weekend in retributive attacks believed to be linked to an earlier arson attack on two police vehicles.

About 300 victims from Chingwizi were indiscriminately arrested on charges of carrying out the arson attacks. At least 29 villagers appeared at Chiredzi Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where they were charged with committing public violence.

The majority have since migrated to Triangle for seasonal work for their survival, and are living in very precarious conditions. What is heart-rending is that women and children are being deprived of basic education and health services and are facing hunger and malnutrition. As a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Zimbabwe is obliged to implement the right to adequate food.

Under this obligation, states have to adopt measures to facilitate that people feed themselves, ensure their access to productive resources, and if they are not able to do so, provide them with food. Victims of natural disasters, people living in disaster-prone areas and other specially-disadvantaged groups need special attention and priority consideration with respect to accessibility of food.

The right to adequate food, like any other human right, imposes three types or levels of obligations on state parties. This obligation also applies for persons who are victims of natural or other disasters like those in Chingwizi.

Government cannot abdicate this responsibility.

According to the human rights standards on the right to adequate food, in case of natural disasters, under the obligation to fulfil, if people lose their access to resources which are necessary to feed themselves, states are obliged in the short term to provide food to the victims of the catastrophe.

This is not happening in Chingwizi. The government must provide food assistance to those in need in Chingwizi, and if it cannot, should request international assistance if their own resources do not suffice, and should facilitate safe and unimpeded access for international assistance.

In line with the obligation to fulfil the right to food, government must continue to distribute food to the Chingwizi families. Taking into account that Zimbabwe as a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, it is obliged to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food for villagers in Chingwizi. Is that too much to ask?

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