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UN's Top Humanitarian Worker Patches up Differences with Zimbabwe


U.N.'s top relief coordinator Jan Egeland says Zimbabwe's humanitarian situation is very serious and the need for international assistance is big and growing. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA from Harare where Mr. Egeland ended on Tuesday a three-day face-mending visit.

Mr. Egeland was on a mission to Zimbabwe on behalf of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

President Robert Mugabe invited Mr. Annan to visit Zimbabwe following a U.N. report, which condemned the government's mass eviction of people in urban areas in May and June which affected about 2.4 million people.

Mr. Egeland said the United Nations needed a better relationship with the government in order to help people overcome growing hardships.

"The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is very serious," Mr. Egeland said. "The prospects are also very worrying. The need for international assistance is big and growing. The people of Zimbabwe are suffering under several big problems. The aids pandemic is taking three-thousand lives every week, there is a million aids orphans, there is now chronic food insecurity, there is a lack of social services including lack of health services."

Mr. Egeland said lack of housing was exacerbated by the government's forced demolition of hundreds of thousands of homes in urban areas and the eviction of their inhabitants.

Strained relations between the United Nations and Zimbabwe eased somewhat when Harare agreed last week to accept food aid for millions of people facing hunger. Zimbabwe also agreed to allow the United Nations to help build some shelters for people displaced by the evictions..

Zimbawe is in a deep economic crisis, with seven out of 10 people unemployed, inflation running at more than 400 percent and the agriculture sector, once the source of the country's export wealth, unable to feed the population.

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