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

  • Extract from the statement of Jan Egeland to the UN Security Council
    OCHA (UN)
    December 19, 2005

    Finally, Mr. President, I have just returned from Zimbabwe and South Africa. As I reported to you in April, the humanitarian situation in the sub-region is already very serious, due to severe food insecurity, widespread HIV/AIDS and inadequate basic services. More than ten million people in the region are in need of food assistance. The situation could deteriorate further in 2006 and beyond, particularly in Zimbabwe and Malawi, unless actions are taken to meet immediate needs and to reverse the decline in key sectors. In Zimbabwe, the humanitarian situation has worsened significantly in 2005. More than three million people - almost one third of the population - will receive food through World Food Programme in January and even more will receive assistance come April. Annual maize production, the basic staple, is one third of what it was several years ago. Basic services continue to deteriorate, particularly in the health, water and sanitation sectors. Inflation currently reaches over 500 percent. In this context, and as I told the Government in my meetings in Harare, the massive urban eviction campaign of hundreds of thousands of people was "the worst possible action, at the worst possible time".

    We are now entering the peak of the "lean season." Food prices are rising fast, placing some basic commodities out of reach for a growing portion of the population. I welcome the Memorandum of Understanding finalized by the Government and WFP, which will ensure these emergency needs are met, and I also hope it will lead to better collaboration between the Government and the humanitarian agencies in other sectors. Yet we much recognize that this huge need for food assistance is symbolic of the vicious cycle that we are caught in. It was raining when I was leaving Zimbabwe, but all expected that next year's harvest would be poor because of a lack of skilled agricultural labor force, the devastating toll of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, counterproductive agricultural policies and practices, and a lack of inputs such as fertilizer, seeds and tools. It is not sustainable to provide food assistance for millions of people year after year without making the necessary investments to get out of this situation. We can have a new approach that again will provide food security for all Zimbabweans. This will require major efforts from all, nationally as well as internationally. There is no substitute for engagement and dialogue at all levels in order to address the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

    From my discussions with the Government of Zimbabwe, I am convinced that the UN and the humanitarian community at large must try to engage more actively with the Government to address the enormous humanitarian crisis. We did reach agreement on some issues during my mission: a more active and systematic dialogue on food security; a more hands-on approach to resolving bureaucratic problems for humanitarian organizations through "one-stop-shops" at both the Government and the UN; and the initiation of a shelter programme for households affected by the eviction campaign.

    However, sustained progress will require the following:

    • The Government must stop further evictions and be more flexible in allowing shelter and other programmes for those affected. It must ensure that beneficiaries are assisted solely on the basis of need
    • The UN and our humanitarian partners, as well as the donors, should be guided in their own response by the needs of the population. We should provide the appropriate level of assistance where and when we identify the needs. Beyond food aid, we need to invest in food security, livelihoods and basic services
    • The Governments in the region and Africa at large should engage more proactively with Zimbabwe to find constructive solutions, also given their interdependence and the risks of increased migratory movements
    • All parties must understand the importance of neutral and impartial humanitarian assistance.

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