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Zimbabwe: Faces ‘Meltdown’ - UN

Zimbabwe: Still No Accord On UN Donor Aid Appeal As Country Faces ‘Meltdown’

With Zimbabwe facing a meltdown and life expectancy cut in half, the United Nations has not yet reached agreement with the country’s Government on an overall international aid appeal for a crisis which has been exacerbated by the authority’s mass urban eviction campaign, the UN chief humanitarian envoy said.

“We have not reached agreement with the government on the text (of an appeal), we have not agreed on how many are affected, how to help them, the role of (non-governmental organizations) NGOs and other operational aspects,” Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told a news briefing today in UN headquarters in New York.

The complex emergency in Zimbabwe comprises a combination of widespread food insecurity, high unemployment and a 25 percent HIV/AIDS prevalence rate.

Most recently, the two-month old Government Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order) urban eviction programme, described by senior UN officials as an ongoing violation of human rights, has forced an estimated 650,000 to 700,000 into conditions much worse in many cases than they had before they were evicted.

Mr. Egeland said the world body has been using funding from an earlier appeal to provide some aid to 170,000 and 100,000 people affected by the evictions and of that number about 100,000 are getting regular assistance to include food, temporary shelter, water and sanitation. But a much broader programme is still lacking and is sorely needed to address the broader emergency in the country, he added said.

“The backdrop is a dramatic one in Zimbabwe, one of the most dramatic in the world. Life expectancy has plummeted from around 63 years in the late 1980s and early 1990s to 33.9 years in 2004. This is a meltdown. This is a nearly halving of life expectancy,” Egeland said.

He said talks were continuing with the Zimbabwean Government and in the absence of an agreement, the UN has not been able to get out an appeal to donors. “We made an appeal for $11.9 million in July and we’ve gotten quite a bit of that, but we would like to have a more comprehensive plan to help more people and we need government help for that.”

He said most people affected by the eviction have gone back to the countryside to live with relatives, have been absorbed by countryside villages, or absorbed by other urban areas But many live now out in the open, or urban shelters, or in the rubble of the demolished homes in which they’d lived before being evicted.

Central to the problems in the country is an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, which now stands at about one-quarter of the adult population. Some 3,000 people die from HIV/AIDS per week in Zimbabwe and about 1.3 million children have been orphaned by the pandemic.

He also said that although Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been considering a visit to Zimbabwe as a means of focusing more international attention on the crisis, as he did this week in Niger, no decision has been made.

“I think we have to make some progress – and I think we will – before he visits,” Mr. Egeland said.

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