“Relieving the suffering of millions of people must be the priority of Zimbabwe’s leaders,” said Mr Annan. “But global attention is also slipping as Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis worsens.”
During their visit the Elders plan to make a first-hand assessment of how to more effectively respond to current humanitarian needs, and how to avoid further deterioration of the situation in Zimbabwe and its spill-over effects on neighbouring countries.
“We hope that our visit will also add momentum to the global response to longer-term issues of reform and development once an inclusive government is in place and operational,” said Mr Annan. “It is crucial that the international community supports a Zimbabwe-led process of recovery, and provides sufficient funding for its implementation.”
Mr Annan emphasised that this will be a humanitarian mission. “The delegation will not be involved in the current political negotiations,” he said. “However, we urge Zimbabwe’s political leaders to move swiftly to fully implement the 15 September agreement, particularly the provisions on humanitarian and food assistance. Delays in forming a government are prolonging the suffering of the people.”
The Elders have been observing the decline of Zimbabwe’s economic and humanitarian situation with concern for some time. The World Food Programme estimates that 5 million Zimbabweans nearly half the population – will need emergency food aid by early next year. Fuel and seed shortages mean crops are not being planted, exacerbating the food crisis.