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AJWS update on Zimbabwe
American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
July 14, 2005

Almost one million people have been displaced from their homes, causing profound disruption and suffering to families and communities. This is an underreported and misunderstood humanitarian crisis of deep proportions. This began at the end of May, several weeks after completing a peaceful election cycle, the Government of Zimbabwe began implementing a program called “Operation Murambatsvina.”

This program, which can be translated as “Operation Clean-up”, has been presented as an effort to spruce up the city centers, enforce regulations on informal markets, clear unhygienic slums and “restore the shine” to Zimbabwe.

However, murambatsvina can also be translated as “driving out filth.” And the reality of its manifestation is equally slanted. The campaign, which continues today, has consisted of bulldozing and demolishing market areas, homes, schools and clinics in every town and rural business center in the country.

Whether or not one accepts a political interpretation of the reasons behind and the methods used in this crack-down in urban areas, what is apparent is that it is creating a humanitarian crisis -- in a nation already facing disastrous levels of poverty, HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and lack of infrastructure and services.

The estimates of the number of people who have been displaced thus far vary from 300,000 to over a million. Hundreds of thousands more people have lost their livelihoods. Family members who are now housing and feeding displaced relatives are finding their meager resources overstretched. Children have stopped going to school, and their parents are no longer able to raise the school fees need to put them back into school in their new regions. Several people have died, crushed during the demolitions, run over by vehicles or as a result of diseases and exposure (it is currently winter in the southern hemisphere).

Because the communities that are suffering the most from these actions are poor and marginalized, many of them are participants in projects run by AJWS grantee organizations throughout the country. Therefore, many AJWS grantees in Zimbabwe find themselves having to suspend their regular activities to help families track displaced people, distribute emergency relief supplies, conduct trauma mitigation and other necessary activities.

In light of this direct involvement of our partners, we have launched a solidarity/emergency response effort to support our local partners and other community groups involved in supporting the affected communities. Through our Rapid Response Fund we have provided some additional funding, and in conjunction with other grant-making organizations are coordinating ongoing support to organizations committed to peace, justice and survival in Zimbabwe.

Current Zimbabwe Rapid Relief grants


Project Title

Project Description

# of target beneficiaries

Community target

Inter-Country People’s Aid
AJWS partner since 1999

Emergency Relief to Hatcliffe Settlement

To provide nutritional, water and sanitation, shelter, health and transportation support to Hatcliffe extension residents made homeless or who lost their livelihoods as a result of the settlement demolitions.

Approx 5000 people

Hatcliffe and Porta Farm, Caledonia

Girl Child Network
AJWS partner since 2004

Emergency Rehabilitation for Victims of "Clean-Up Campaign"

To provide food, school fees and clothing as well as temporary shelter and relocation expenses to displaced girls' families affected by the on going campaign. The goals of the emergency relief effort include creating a violence-free environment for the affected and displaced women and girls, to curb a potential health disaster as a result of shortages of sanitary facility, and to reinstate children in school who dropped out as a result of relocation or destruction of livelihood.

350 families

Chitungwiza, Rusape, Hwange

Institute for Cultural Affairs
AJWS partner since 2002

Emergency Relief for Mufakose Residents Affected by Operation Murambatsvina

To provide financial, moral and psycho-social support to project beneficiaries to enable them cope with extra burdens created by caring for members of their extended families who have been affected by displacement.

Approx 5000 people



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