Zimbabwe: AFSC responds to deteriorating humanitarian situation

December 21, 2005 - The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe requires urgent attention. The AFSC staff in Southern Africa is witnessing escalating tension within the country, widespread food shortages, massive numbers of people who have been made homeless, growing unemployment and a high rate of HIV/AIDS.
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To date, the humanitarian aid coming into the country is grossly inadequate. International sanctions imposed on the government of Zimbabwe, compounded by a lack of foreign exchange and hyper inflation, are hurting the nation's most vulnerable populations. Today, the country is struggling to import basic things such as food and fuel. The UN recently described the situation as "extremely serious and worsening." AFSC has already allocated money for a response.


Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order) was launched by the Government of Zimbabwe some months ago to clear the urban slums. This forced eviction of approximately 700,000 people from their homes was intended to root out illegal trade in commodities and give space for urban renewal. The evictions and home demolitions have gravely worsened an already serious humanitarian situation as the newly homeless now face the rainy season without shelter.

People whose homes have been demolished are being told to return to the rural areas or face further action by the police. For those who do have a place to go in another part of the country, Zimbabwe's fuel crisis makes traveling long distances either impossible or prohibitively expensive. Some have sought shelter with friends or family whose homes have not been destroyed, creating massive overcrowding. Still others have resorted to sheltering in church yards, sleeping by the road side, or even returning to the sites of their destroyed homes. Many of the displaced come from neighboring countries and have no place to go in Zimbabwe. Some of these have been separated from their families when they were forced to return to their home countries.

AFSC's Humanitarian Response

AFSC, working through faith-based partner organizations in Zimbabwe, will provide immediate relief in the form of materials for shelters. Something as simple as plastic sheeting can be a godsend to families left with nothing as the rainy season approaches. At present, we are assessing further needs for longer term recovery. AFSC has had a long history of work in Zimbabwe and is committed to responding to this human tragedy. Timely and adequate humanitarian aid could save the lives of many Zimbabwean children, women and men.

Policy Response

The situation on the ground in Zimbabwe is getting little or no attention from the world community. Donor countries must pledge and deliver assistance based on humanitarian imperatives, not political considerations. AFSC is also committed to taking the necessary steps to bring attention to this crisis. The world's governments must generously support the United Nations' appeal for $276 million for food aid, medical assistance, safe water and sanitation.

We also urge that the Government of Zimbabwe listen to its own citizens in order to find lasting peaceful solutions to the underlying political, economic and social conflicts before the situation is further exacerbated. It is urgent that the UN, NGOs and the Government of Zimbabwe collaboratively address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe before it is too late.