Zimbabwe

UN humanitarian chief says Zimbabwe has complex emergency

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With a United Nations report out today saying the Zimbabwean Government has evicted 700,000 people from urban housing, the UN humanitarian aid chief said the country's emergency is complex and also includes high unemployment, widespread food insecurity and 25 per cent of the population living with HIV/AIDS.
Giving a news briefing at the UN complex in Geneva, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland said that while the Zimbabwean authorities believed the urban evictions were improving the towns and cities, no alternative plans had been made for those being removed from their "improvised homes," leading to a human tragedy.

In addition, millions were experiencing food insecurity, 70 per cent of the 13 million population was unemployed and 1 million children were AIDS orphans, he said.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has fed between 1 million and 2 million people so far this year, the fourth year of drought, after feeding 4.5 million people last year and over 5 million in 2003, Mr. Egeland noted.

This year's WFP total would have to be much higher, but there has been "a desperate lack of funding" for aid to Zimbabwe, he said. AIDS orphans and victims in Zimbabwe received only a fraction of the assistance that went to infected people and orphans in its neighbours, he added.

According to a mid-year report from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Zimbabwe, "enduring the country's worst humanitarian situation since independence a quarter of a century ago," requested $ 7.5 million and received $1.6 million. "This has led to the world's fastest rise in child mortality -- 22 per cent," it said.

Mr. Egeland said the humanitarian principle was to help those who needed aid, wherever they were, at the same time speaking very bluntly about the policies of Governments which trampled on human rights.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), which he heads, said UNICEF's assistance to evicted Zimbabweans has included 42,000 water purification tablets, 10,000 blankets and 2.5 tons of soap.

The WFP has redirected 1.4 tons of food and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has distributed more than 40,000 blankets and other supplies, OCHA said. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has provided reproductive health materials and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was helping 2,500 refugees in Tongogara Camp, as well as aiding refugees and asylum-seekers who have been arrested, it said.