UNITED NATIONS (AFP)--UN relief coordinator Jan Egeland on Friday painted a grim picture of Zimbabwe’s humanitarian situation in the wake of the government’s recent slum demolition campaign which has affected hundreds of thousands people.
Egeland said that following a 11.9-million-dollar (10-million-euro) appeal
launched by his Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in early
July, "we are undertaking a big humanitarian program... and have been able
to reach between 100,000 and 200,000 people."
But he said the Harare government was refusing to cooperate with a larger UN program to assist those hardest hit by the eviction campaign, including a
longer-term component to resettle affected slum dwellers.
"We have not reached agreement with the government...(on) how many are
affected, how to help them, the role of (nongovernmental organizations) and
other operational aspects," he told a press briefing here.
"We will continue our dialogue with the government," he noted. "We are
working hard to gain access to people in need and to get donors’ funding."
Egeland said the evicted slum dwellers had gone back to live with relatives
in the countryside or had gone to other urban slums, many of them drifting
around or sleeping outside or living in overcrowded urban shelters.
The largest concentration of such people is now in Hopley Farm near Harare,
where at least 4,000 to 5,000 people were living in rudimentary conditions,
He noted that the demolition campaign could not have come at the worst time
for Zimbabwe, which is being blighted by the effects of AIDS, food
insecurity and crumbling basic services.
"Life expectancy has plummeted from around 63 years in later 1980’s and
early 1990’s to 33.9 years in 2004... this is a meltdown," he lamented.
A quarter of the country’s population is infected by the AIDS virus, with
3,000 people dying from the disease per week and 1.3 million children
orphaned, he noted.
"Food insecurity is also now very severe and growing in Zimbabwe," he added.
A drought across the Southern African subregion means that 10 million
people will likely need food assistance, according to Egeland.
He said the World Food Program was already feeding one million people in
Zimbabwe and was making preparations to feed 2.9 million people before the
end of the year.
Zimbabwe on May 18 launched the two-pronged Operation Restore Order and Operation Murambatsvina, razing shacks, homes, small businesses and market stalls in shantytowns and other poor urban areas.
The government has portrayed the cleanup blitz that took place amid severe
food and fuel shortages as an urban renewal campaign and says it is building
new housing for those displaced in the operations that ended in late July.
But a report released by UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka last month estimated that
700,000 people had lost their homes or their livelihoods, or both, in the
10-week campaign, and that a further 2.4 million Zimbabweans "had been
affected in varying degrees."
But the Harare government accused Tibaijuka of choosing to "indulge i