Demand for aid to the homeless is exceeding supply in Zimbabwe, UNICEF says

News and Press Release
Originally published
Despite calls on the Government of Zimbabwe from senior United Nations officials to stop demolishing housing, thousands of Zimbabweans lost their homes within 24 hours of the appeals and the increasing demand for assistance continues to outstrip the supply, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.

"We have been working around the clock for the better part of two months and are improving the situation for tens of thousands, but such is the gravity of the situation that we are asking the international community to support the people of Zimbabwe," UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Festo Kavishe said.

UNICEF said the Porta Farm community felt the full force of the Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order) demolitions during the fact-finding visit of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy for the evictions, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka, three weeks ago.

Suddenly made homeless, an estimated 4,000 people fled from Porta Farm to either their rural homes, or a government transit camp called Caledonia Farm, it said, but Caledonia Farm was soon closed.

Ms. Tibaijuka issued her report and appeal last Friday, as Mr. Annan condemned the demolition.

Any family that tried to rebuild on the ruins of Porta Farm this week witnessed the return of the bulldozers, it said.

In response to pleas from tens of thousands across Zimbabwe, UNICEF is providing blankets and plastic sheeting as protection from the southern African country's winter winds. The organization is also distributing 90,000 litres of water a day, providing sanitation facilities and supporting chronically ill people with supplies for home-based care.

UNICEF said it is continuing to step up its operations throughout the country by helping to organize additional mobile medical clinics and planning the further distribution of blankets and shelter materials for children and their families.

The forced evictions of hundreds of thousands of people, including 220,000 children, have worsened the already dire situation in a country that has the world's fourth-highest rate of HIV prevalence and is grappling with fuel shortages, a growing food emergency, declining economic performance and the sharpest rises in child mortality in the world, it said.

After conducting an assessment of Zimbabwe's current needs, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the two greatest requirements were shelter and food. The UN and its partners would decide whether to expand existing programmes, or to issue a new appeal for assistance, it said.