Zimbabwe: Complex Emergency Situation Report #1 (FY2005)

Situation Report
Originally published


Note: The last situation report was dated April 22, 2004.


Zimbabwe continues to suffer from a combination of a collapsing economy, the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS, the residual effects of four years of drought, and detrimental Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) policies that prevent economic and agricultural recovery. Zimbabwe is in its sixth consecutive year of economic decline and is unable to maintain the infrastructure necessary for agricultural production, water and sanitation services, power facilities, and fuel requirements. The economic crisis is, in part, the result of the government's land redistribution program that has destroyed Zimbabwe’s formerly productive agricultural sector.

Since May 18, 2005, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated in Zimbabwe’s urban and peri-urban areas with the launch of the GOZ’s Operation Murambatsvina, or Operation Restore Order. The operation is a massive campaign to demolish informal dwellings and businesses in the country’s major cities that has affected approximately 374,000 people, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

While preliminary results from the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) indicate that numbers of people in need of food assistance will peak in January 2006 at 2.9 million, others speculate that the numbers could actually reach much higher if assumptions made in the ZIMVAC assessment do not hold true. The poor 2004/2005 crop harvest, the GOZ’s Operation Restore Order, high levels of inflation and unemployment, declining access to basic services, and limited import capacity have aggravated the humanitarian situation and will likely increase the number of Zimbabweans in need of humanitarian assistance.

Population in Need of Food Assistance
2.9 million
ZIMVAC – July 2005
Persons Affected by Operation Restore Order
IOM – July 2005

Total FY 2005 USAID/OFDA Assistance to Zimbabwe: $4,410,540

Total FY 2005 U.S. Government (USG) Humanitarian Assistance to Zimbabwe: $16,020,540


Operation Restore Order. Since May 18, the GOZ has destroyed thousands of low-income dwellings, as well as informal markets and stalls in major urban centers, including Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Kariba, Chipinge, and Victoria Falls. The demolitions have resulted in massive evictions of urban households and the end of many informal businesses. The campaign is targeted at people deemed to be living in illegal housing or involved in illicit trade. According to the GOZ, the operation is necessary to destroy the illegal and expanding informal market for basic goods and foreign currency, eradicate illegal houses, and promote urban beautification. However, the campaign has affected the poorest and most vulnerable Zimbabweans and has been carried out before alternative shelters were available to those who have been made homeless and without adequate GOZ planning and capacity to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected in a manner consistent with internationally-accepted standards. In recent weeks, the campaign has expanded to include the destruction of homes and buildings in low-density and more affluent urban areas and in rural areas, focusing on newly resettled farmers in commercial farming areas. According to international media reports, despite a GOZ announcement that Operation Restore Order had been halted, house demolitions continue.

As of July 14, IOM reported that approximately 374,000 people have been affected by Operation Restore Order. According to international media reports, as of July 8, five people, including two children, have been killed in these demolitions. The U.N. reported that households displaced by the demolitions are moving in with relatives or friends, finding alternative housing in urban areas, or are being taken by the GOZ to transit camps such as Caledonia Farm in Harare and Sports Oval in Manicaland, or are traveling to rural areas. Others are sleeping in the open -- either in the location of their destroyed housing or in roads and parks -- exposed to the extreme cold of the winter. Residents in some neighborhoods have reportedly been forced to tear down their own homes and businesses before the police arrive to avoid paying a fine.

Some urban residents note that there have been significant increases in housing rent as a result of Operation Restore Order. According to the U.N., the humanitarian needs of the displaced include food, potable water, sanitation, temporary shelter, health services, transportation, and relief commodities such as blankets and soap.

Urban livelihoods at risk. In addition to the assets confiscated or destroyed by the GOZ during Operation Restore Order, including housing used to support small business activities, approximately 30,000 vendors have lost their livelihoods as a result of the confiscation of goods and commercial assets, as well as the destruction of tens of thousands of street vendor stalls, informal markets, and vegetable gardens planted by the urban poor. In addition, the police have arrested some vendors, who have been fined for contravening laws on the sale of goods.

Although no recent official estimate of the size of Zimbabwe’s informal sector exists, a joint Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) and USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) survey in 2001 suggested that more than 50 percent of the urban population depended on the informal sector. With an unemployment rate of more than 70 percent and a greater reliance on the informal sector, the demolition campaign has exacerbated the already precarious situation of a large proportion of urban households whose livelihoods depended on a wide range of informal activities.

Food security in urban areas is also at risk due to the rising cost of living and shortages of basic food commodities. According to FEWS NET, high levels of inflation, the increase in staple food prices, and low incomes continue to erode the purchasing power of the majority of urban households. Shortages of basic commodities, such as maize meal, sugar, milk, and cooking oil, reemerged in April 2005 and led to hoarding and opportunistic resale at exorbitant prices on the parallel market, according to FEWS NET. In addition, critical shortages of fuel and rapidly escalating fuel costs are having devastating effects on transport availability and commuting costs.

U.N. conducts an assessment of Operation Restore Order. From June 26 to July 9, the U.N. Special Envoy to the Secretary General, Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the U.N. Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT), traveled throughout Zimbabwe to assess the humanitarian impact of the ongoing operation and needs of the affected populations. Based on meetings with GOZ and local authority officials, affected communities, and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and U.N. agencies, the Special Envoy is expected to provide an assessment of Operation Restore Order to the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan during the week of July 18.

Food insecurity in rural areas continues to increase. Zimbabwe’s harvest during the 2004/2005 agricultural season was poor and below last year’s production. Preliminary ZIMVAC results estimate the 2004/2005 maize production at 600,000 metric tons (MT). According to FEWS NET, in the provinces of Midlands, Mashonaland, and Manicaland, some districts harvested a small amount of cereals; however, crop production in the rest of the country’s rural districts was poor. As a result of much higher maize grain prices in areas with negligible production, such as the southern districts of Masvingo, Manicaland, and Matabeleland provinces, households are heavily dependent on grain supplies from the state-controlled Grain Marketing Board (GMB). However, FEWS NET reported that GMB supplies are erratic and grossly inadequate due to low grain reserves and shortages of trucks and fuel to transport the available grain to deficit areas.

To meet this year’s crop production deficit, the GOZ announced plans to import 1.2 million MT of maize, which is to be sold by the GMB at subsidized prices. Given the high rate of inflation and chronic shortages of foreign currency, fuel, and power, doubts have been expressed to date over how the country’s economy can afford to import that amount of food.

Provision of international emergency food assistance. In June 2004, the GOZ informed donors that the country would no longer need international food assistance and requested that the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) and other relief agencies halt large-scale food relief operations in Zimbabwe. In June 2005, the GOZ told donors and WFP that food assistance would be welcome, although the GOZ has not launched an official appeal for international assistance. However, the GOZ has not provided necessary detailed information about Zimbabwe’s food needs and has not removed bureaucratic obstacles to the provision of emergency food assistance. WFP and NGOs continue to face delays in the issuance of import licenses for food aid. In addition, the GOZ has not yet signed Memoranda of Understanding with WFP and NGOs allowing unfettered access to affected populations in order to conduct humanitarian activities and distribute food assistance to beneficiaries selected on the basis of need.


On October 29, 2004, U.S. Ambassador Christopher William Dell redeclared a disaster in Zimbabwe due to the ongoing complex emergency and significant humanitarian needs. To date in FY 2005, the U.S. Government (USG) has provided more than $16 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to the complex emergency crisis in Zimbabwe.

To date in FY 2005, USAID/OFDA has contributed more than $4.4 million to support Zimbabwe’s humanitarian needs in the sectors of food security, agriculture, water and sanitation, and nutrition. As part of this assistance, USAID/OFDA has provided more than $1.8 million to help displaced Zimbabweans by providing relief commodities and services in Zimbabwe. To address water and sanitation needs, USAID/OFDA is contributing more than $1 million to rehabilitate rural water points in Masvingo Province and to provide emergency water and sanitation services in Matabeleland South Province. In addition, USAID/OFDA is providing $500,000 to assist food insecure households in growing and efficiently producing vegetables in household nutrition gardens for their own consumption and to earn additional income in the provinces of Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, and Matabeleland North. USAID/OFDA is also contributing more than $500,000 to implement a livelihood recovery program focused on improving food security as well as water and sanitation facilitates for highly vulnerable households in Manicaland Province. USAID/OFDA is providing more than $420,000 to enhance food security and restore degraded land through a livestock credit program in Matabeleland North Province.

To date in FY 2005, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) has provided 19,350 MT of P.L. 480 Title II emergency food assistance, valued at more than $11.6 million. In FY 2004, USAID/FFP provided a total of 113,521 MT of P.L. 480 Title II emergency food assistance, valued at more than $68.1 million. USAID/FFP programs are implemented in Zimbabwe through WFP and the Consortium for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency (C-SAFE), an emergency food assistance program comprised of CARE, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and World Vision International.

Implementing Partner
Assistance to displaced Zimbabweans
Water and sanitation
Masvingo and Matabeleland South
Food Security/Agriculture, Water and sanitation
Food Security/Agriculture, Nutrition
Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, and Matabeleland North
Food Security/Agriculture
Matabeleland North
6,850 MT of P.L. 480 Title II Emergency Food Assistance
12,500 MT of P.L. 480 Title II Emergency Food Assistance

Notes: (1) USAID/OFDA funding represents committed and/or obligated amount as of July 20, 2005.

(2) In addition to FY 2005 contributions, FY 2004 carryover stocks of approximately 50,000 MT are available for distribution in Zimbabwe in FY 2005

MAP: USAID FY2005 programs in Zimbabwe