Helping the homeless in Zimbabwe

Three year old Taniya stands still and sobs as thick clouds of dust churn through the air.

Three weeks ago her parent's home was demolished as part of a controversial government effort to 'clean up' cities and fight the black market across Zimbabwe.

Tens of thousands of settlements and business activities - namely homes and market stalls - have been destroyed. The operation has hit particularly hard at those already living on the margins. Current estimates are that 250,000 people have been made homeless.

Taniya's family was never wealthy; their home was a two-room shack that her father had built with his own hands. He says it took him eight months to save money for the materials, and three weeks to build it. After the bulldozer destroyed the shack they have been sheltering at a 'transit camp'.

Aid agencies are scrambling to meet the overwhelming demand to supply water, sanitation, blankets, plastic sheeting, food and medical support to the newly displaced populations.

Mbuya Mushambi has raised four grandchildren left in her care after her own children died from AIDS-related causes. But today eighty year old Mushambi is at a loss of how she can continue to support her family.

Two weeks ago she watched government bulldozers demolish the outbuildings she rented to lodgers on her small lot - her main source of income. "I am broken," she said, tears falling from her eyes. "This was everything I had; more importantly, this was everything these children had. What will we do?".

In a partial response to her needs, UNICEF began this week working with the Zimbabwe Widows and Orphans Trust and 1000 individual women like Mbuya, offering educational support and delivering thousands of blankets and cooking materials.

UNICEF also plans to have mobile medical clinics operational within days, together with a range of equipment for children. "We are accessing those most at need," said Dr. Kavishe. "Though when asked 'Is it enough', I have to say, in this situation, it's never enough."

Article information written by James Elder.