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

  • ZIMBABWE: Mugabe wants UN to play active role, says Egeland
    IRIN News
    December 06, 2005

    JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe wants the United Nations to play an active role in addressing the humanitarian crises in the country, said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland after meeting the leader on Tuesday.

    He also announced that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was considering visiting Zimbabwe next year.

    Egeland told a press conference in the capital, Harare, that there was still "disagreement" around government's controversial clean-up campaign, Operation Murambatsvina, which has left 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood after kicking off in mid-May.

    He described his meeting with Mugabe as a "long, good and frank exchange", but noted, "There is disagreement on how to help those who were evicted; there has been some concern on how to reach food security," adding, "this is not the time to list all the points of disagreement".

    The UN envoy, who is also the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, remarked, "We're here to help - I explained to the president that we can be more effective if we get even better procedures for how to help. He says that he will certainly work on having these improved procedures, so that we can help Zimbabwe to get out of the situation where there have been declining standards of living of late, and into a better future."

    Zimbabwe initially rejected UN offers of assistance to build temporary shelter for people affected by Murambatsvina, only to make an about-turn last month. Subject to funding, the UN will construct 2,500 housing units during the first phase of the programme.

    Egeland said he had "reiterated our willingness to help with shelter material for those who have inadequate shelter - I could see them myself yesterday - after the eviction campaign". On Monday, the UN envoy visited two transit camps housing people left homeless after the clean-up operation in Harare.

    Underlining the points of agreement with the Zimbabwean leader, Egeland said efforts had to be redoubled to effectively deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis in the country, which had more than a million AIDS orphans.

    He also referred to the food crisis affecting millions of people. Last week, the UN launched an appeal for US $276 million humanitarian appeal for Zimbabwe, which included food aid for at least three million people.

    The UN envoy was accompanied by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Zimbabwe, Agostinho Zacarias, while Mugabe was joined by his foreign and defence ministers at the meeting.

    Later on Tuesday, Egeland flew to Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, where he met with the mayor, the governor of Matabeleland North province and church leaders. Due to inclement weather, he was unable to visit Matabeleland South, where he was scheduled to observe food distribution, among other things.

    Egeland ends his five-day fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe on Wednesday, after which he will head to neighbouring South Africa for talks with the government on closer collaboration in humanitarian assistance, including raising resources for the proposed global Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

    The new CERF will probably be larger than the existing fund, established in 1992, which UN agencies can draw upon when responding to emergencies, provided they can identify how the money will be replenished.

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