Zimbabwe demolitions affect thousands of most vulnerable

Government demolition of properties in Zimbabwe has affected thousands of the population's most vulnerable, including children orphaned by AIDS.

The British Red Cross is concerned that the clearances - which have displaced 360,000 people since May - are having a disproportionate impact on the very poor, the chronically sick and child-headed households.

Many of the poorest people lived in the wooden shacks demolished by the authorities because they were deemed illegal and these included a high concentration of households headed by children orphaned by AIDS.

The Zimbabwe Red Cross, supported by the British Red Cross, has led the humanitarian relief operation at the 'transit' camps established by the government for displaced people. Hundreds have been receiving water, blankets, jerry cans and chlorine.

The Red Cross has also been stockpiling relief items around the country in anticipation of the demolition programme displacing thousands more.

Ben Mountfield, head of the Red Cross delegation in the capital Harare, who recently returned from Zimbabwe, said: "The clearances have generated significant humanitarian needs. It is the middle of winter at the moment and temperatures can drop to freezing."