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Zimbabwe: UN Coordinator studies humanitarian need

Zimbabwe: UN Relief Coordinator looks at humanitarian needs

United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, arrived in Zimbabwe over the weekend on a three-day mission on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to assess the humanitarian needs of the population, including those affected by a massive Government slum-clearance effort that left hundreds of thousands homeless.

The complex humanitarian emergency in Zimbabwe to be looked at by Mr. Egeland comprises a combination of widespread food insecurity, high unemployment and a 25 per cent HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, in addition to the homelessness caused by Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order).

Yesterday, Mr. Egeland met with the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development, Ignatius Chombo, with whom he discussed ways the UN, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other partners could better support the many people who needed temporary shelter and other assistance.

According to a UN spokesman, Mr. Egeland emphasized the critical role of the Government in granting access to humanitarian organizations and helping them to expedite bureaucratic procedures.

Today, he visited displaced persons as well as a Government housing project as well as an orphanage and education centre for AIDS orphans and HIV-positive children.

He also met with church leaders, representatives of national and international NGOs during the day, as well as members of the resident donor community in the evening.

Before he leaves Zimbabwe, Mr. Egeland is expected to meet with President Robert Mugabe, the spokesman said.

He will brief the press before leaving for South Africa, and is also expected to brief the press corps on his return to New York.

Zimbabwe's six-month-old Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order) slum clearance program, described by senior UN officials as an ongoing violation of human rights, has forced an estimated 650,000 to 700,000 people into conditions much worse in many cases than before they were evicted.

On 31 October, Secretary-General Annan appealed to the Government to allow UN humanitarian assistance to the country after the authorities rejected the world body's aid amid reports that tens of thousands of people there were still homeless and in need of help.

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