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

  • U.N. envoy says Zimbabwe's crisis is deepening
    MacDonald Dzirutwe, Reuters
    December 07, 2005

    HARARE, Dec - U.N. humanitarian envoy Jan Egeland left Zimbabwe on Wednesday after a four-day tour and said its humanitarian crisis was deepening, with millions in need of aid.

    "The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is very serious. The need for international aid is big and growing," Egeland, the U.N. humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, told journalists late on Tuesday after talks with President Robert Mugabe and government officials.

    "Millions of people are struggling with their back against the wall to fend off hunger, to fend off AIDS and a lot of other things," he said after visiting people living in shacks since they were evicted during government demolitions of shantytowns.

    On Tuesday Mugabe rejected a U.N. offer to provide temporary shelter for victims of the slum clearance programme but did accept an offer of food aid.

    The U.N. says Zimbabwe needs emergency aid including tents to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of homeless but the government says it only needs help to provide permanent homes.

    Egeland said there was progress on aid, especially for people suffering with HIV/AIDS.

    "The people of Zimbabwe are suffering under several big problems. I am hopeful that we will have a more positive partnership in 2006 than we have had in the past," said Egeland.


    Egeland said the government crackdown could have been avoided and urged authorities to halt further evictions after reports in the past month that families already living in the open were being forced to move again by authorities.

    "I am again appealing for the eviction campaign to stop, there is not enough shelter ready to house those who have been evicted," said Egeland.

    The evictions, which Mugabe argues were meant to root out illegal trade in scant basic commodities, left 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood and affected 2.4 million others, U.N. estimates show.

    A U.N. report criticised Harare and said the demolitions were carried out "with indifference to human suffering".

    Egeland, who visited settlements where families have lived in makeshift plastic tents since their houses were destroyed in Harare and Bulawayo, said he and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan stood by that report.

    The demolitions added to the woes of many Zimbabweans facing shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency, high unemployment and one of the highest rates of inflation in the world.

    Mugabe denies responsibility for the crisis and says domestic and international opponents have sabotaged the economy in retaliation for his programme of seizing white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to blacks.

    Mugabe also accuses the United States and Zimbabwe's former colonial power Britain of trying to use the United Nations to settle political disputes.

    Egeland said the U.N. would be feeding in excess of three million people by next February in Zimbabwe, where the country's agriculture output has fallen by more than half in the last five years. we would be a "major priority for them in the coming year."

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