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US Envoy Affirms Solidarity with Zimbabwe's Hungry, Homeless

Zimbabwe officials say they will resume an urban clean-up campaign to rid the capital of illegal vendors, weeks after suspending the controversial exercise. In May, Zimbabwe's government began demolishing urban slums, including market stalls and homes, saying the campaign was necessary to rid cities of crime. Two months later, the government declared an end to the campaign and said it would now focus on building new homes for those displaced in the crackdown.

The United Nations says the demolition campaign has left 700,000 people homeless or jobless.

Tony Hall, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization, has just returned from Zimbabwe. Speaking from Rome, he tells VOA's Sarah Williams about the hardships of the people there: a shrinking family budget due in part to a 380 percent inflation rate and 80 percent unemployment, a poor harvest, and about 3,300 people dying each month of HIV. Ambassador Hall says he tried – but failed – to visit one of the camps of some whose homes had been destroyed in what the Zimbabwean government calls “Operation Restore Order.”

Ambassador Hall says the United States can not – and will not – write off the people of Zimbabwe. The US has recently donated nearly 74 metric tons of food to Zimbabwe and five other countries in southern Africa facing drought. The United States Agency for International Development says the contribution is enough to feed five million people for one month.