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  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • ZIMBABWE: Govt refuses to endorse emergency appeal
    IRIN News
    August 29, 2005

    NEW YORK - A lack of cooperation from the authorities is hampering efforts to aid those affected by the government of Zimbabwe's forced eviction campaign, says UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland.

    The UN had hoped to announce a flash appeal for 300,000 people directly affected by the evictions by last Friday. However, the lack of an agreement with the goverment has put the appeal on hold.

    "It's hard to understand why we can't help these people. The government disagrees with the wording of the flash appeal, or with our working with certain NGO's, and it disagrees with the numbers [of people affected]," Egeland said. "This is supposed to be a flash appeal, which can be typically prepared in 72 hours".

    He added that while the UN enjoyed good relations on a number of issues with the government, when it came to assisting the evicted population there was a "lack of partnership, lack of information and lack of cooperation".

    As a result, UN humanitarian agencies and NGO partners had struggled to assist those affected by the government's Operation Murambatsvina ('Drive out Filth'). Egeland said that about 100,000 individuals were currently being assisted at 50 sites around the country. The UN estimated that up to 700,000 had been directly affected, while a total of 2.4 million people, or 18 percent of the population, were adversely affected by the evictions.

    Although the UN was able to move freely about the country, access to evicted people had been difficult, particularly for NGO's. Egeland said that aid agencies had not been informed when evictions took place, and often arrived too late, or on occasion were not allowed to access sites where evictions had taken place. This had prevented agencies from being able to accurately trace where displaced people had moved to.

    "What has happened to these people? Some sit in a tent - or shall I say two poles with plastic sheeting in-between where their former homes were, others camp in a nearby football field, others found shelter at their Aunt's house," he said.

    Egeland added that many had returned to the countryside, while others were living in urban slums in conditions much worse than before they were evicted.

    The social backdrop to the evictions was equally dramatic. Egeland said that life expectancy in Zimbabwe had plummeted from 62 years in the late eighties to 33 years last year. A combination of manmade and natural factors had led Zimbabwe to the crisis, he noted.

    "This is a meltdown, a halving of life expectancy," Egeland said, citing HIV/AIDS, drought and food insecurity as the prime reasons for the decline.

    UN sources report that 3,000 people died weekly due to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme was making plans to feed up to four million people in the country.

    Egeland said he hoped for a harmonious working relationship with the government in light of the dramatic decline of life expectancy. He also called upon UN member states in Africa to try and convince the government "to help us, to help them to help their own people".

    South Africa's leadership was considered pivotal in this regard.

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