UNITED Nations emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland this week endorsed UN special envoy Anna Tibaijuka’s report, describing the situation in Zimbabwe as “very serious” and requiring a s
peedy implementation of the report’s recommendations. It was not just a crisis, he said, but a “meltdown”.
“We reiterate and stand by the report done by Tibaijuka. We want to see a speedy implementation of the recommendations to improve the lives of the affected people,” Egeland said.
This comes as a setback for President Mugabe who had hoped for a revision of the UN’s position on Zimbabwe’s controversial urban clearances.
Briefing journalists at the completion of his tour of construction sites and squatter camps in the country on Tuesday, the UN envoy called for an immediate stop to further evictions, saying there weren’t enough resources to cater for those already evicted.
“Shelter demolitions was the worst thing to happen. There was enough homelessness already. It should not happen again and it should stop right away,” he said.
Egeland said “crimes were committed”, and those responsible should be prosecuted.
He said he had open disagreements with President Mugabe, particularly over obstacles to international aid. Egeland launched an appeal for US$276 million (£159 million) to help the homeless, hungry and Aids sufferers in Zimbabwe.
“Housing renewal happens the world over but the best way to do it would be to provide better housing before razing existing structures,” he said.Egeland said a growing number of Zimbabweans faced chronic shortages exacerbated by Operation Murambatsvina.
“A growing number of people are suffering. There is chronic food insecurity, health problems and a shortage of shelter exacerbated by these evictions,” Egeland said.
Egeland visited families living in the open in Hatcliffe Extension and Hopley Farm after government demolished their homes in May.
He told journalists afterwards that the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe was worrisome as the number of people in need of assistance was growing amid diminishing resources.
The controversial exercise left over 700 000 people without shelter or means of livelihood countrywide, while 2,4 million others were indirectly affected by the military-style blitz. “Crimes were commited,” Egeland told the Guardian.
Egeland said he had received assurances during a meeting with President Mugabe and government ministers that Zimbabwe would co-operate with the UN to assist those in need of help. He said government had agreed to UN assistance.
“The UN could have done more if there were good working conditions,” Egeland said. “Government should remove bureaucracy. They should help us help their people.”
Zimbabwe initially rejected UN offers of assistance to build temporary shelter for people affected by Murambatsvina, only to make an about-turn last month.
Subject to funding, the UN will construct 2 500 housing units during the first phase of the programme.Egland said the UN’s World Food Programme would increase the number of people receiving food aid from two million in December to 2,5 million in January and a projected plus three million people in February.