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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
UN and govt to rework text of $30m flash appeal
August 30, 2005
- The United Nations and Zimbabwean authorities went back to the
drawing board on Tuesday after President Robert Mugabe's government
raised serious objections to a draft emergency appeal to provide
immediate aid to 300,000 people.
The UN flash appeal would cover those hardest hit by the government's
controversial urban cleanup campaign, but last week Mugabe refused
to endorse the US $30 million request after raising questions about
Harare insists that the number of people affected by its controversial
demolition campaign has been inflated, and has downplayed the impact
of the operation on the livelihoods of those who had supported themselves
and others by means of informal trade.
UN officials met with their Zimbabwean counterparts on Monday and
agreed to set up a joint committee to draft a new emergency appeal.
"We made substantial progress during our meeting with the government
of Zimbabwe yesterday [Monday], and hope that by the end of the
week we will have a reworked text. Essentially, the Zimbabwean government
has said that the current challenges it faces cannot be compared
to the crisis in Niger or in other part of the continent," the UN
Resident Coordinator, Dr Agostinho Zacarias, told IRIN.
"The government also wants the new text to acknowledge that it has
taken action to assist those who have been affected, and that both
sides need to take a closer look at the number of people affected
by the operation," he noted.
While the UN estimates that a total of 2.4 million people, or 18
percent of the population, were affected by the evictions and the
crackdown on the informal economy that began on 18 May, Zimbabwe's
UN Ambassador, Boniface Chidyausiku, claimed that only about 2,000
people were affected, according to an Associated Press report on
"We have, firstly, to agree on a humanitarian plan. Once that is
done, we have decided to jointly assess just how many people were
affected by the campaign, but that will be done while we continue
to help those in need. Additionally, a joint committee has been
established between the government and the UN to consult regarding
the technical and administrative support needed for the humanitarian
effort," Zacarias explained.
NGOs working in Zimbabwe, who have faced government criticism for
their apparent exaggeration of the impact of Operation Murambatsvina
('Drive Out Filth'), said they had expected the UN to take a "stronger
position" on the issue.
"Although it is important to recognise the political dimensions
in this case, there was an expectation that the UN would have taken
a more proactive role in engaging the government. There is a need
to look beyond relief delivery and towards long-term structural
factors," David Mwaniki, humanitarian programme manager for Action
Aid in Zimbabwe, told IRIN.
"The UN should move away from its current fire-fighting posture
and focus its energy on advocacy and trying to influence government
policy, especially since the humanitarian imperative should always
Mwaniki pointed out that tackling Zimbabwe's macroeconomic challenges
was key to ensuring that the rights of those displaced by the operation
Action Aid has been highly critical of Operation Murambatsvina,
and has questioned the capacity of the government to address the
needs of the many thousands affected by the campaign.
In a report released in July, the international development NGO
said although it was difficult to quantify the damage caused by
the cleanup operation in monetary terms, major losses across a broad
front, ranging from shelter to schooling, were likely.
The NGO argued that greater detail on the impact of the operation
was required for relief assistance to be effective, and also raised
concerns that current assistance was biased towards those with access
to relief in holding camps or sheltering in churches, leaving the
most vulnerable members of the affected population to fend for themselves.
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