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UN: Zimbabwe Preventing Aid Appeal for Evicted Slum Dwellers


U.N. officials say Zimbabwe is blocking efforts to launch a $30 million appeal for victims of the government's urban slum demolition campaign. There are reports the evictions are continuing.

U.N. humanitarian aid chief Jan Egeland says President Robert Mugabe's government is refusing an emergency fund drive to help slum dwellers displaced by the urban demolition project.

"I confirm today that I cannot, as I had hoped, launch an agreed appeal for people evicted in Zimbabwe in the months of May, June and July," he said.

A U.N. report, issued in July, condemned the urban demolition campaign in unusually harsh terms, calling it ill conceived and inhumane.

Early this month, the world body announced it would launch a flash appeal to raise $30 million to provide food and medicine for the victims.

But Mr. Egeland told reporters the Harare government is using bureaucratic obstacles to block the funding drive.

"It's been back and forth," he said. "They [Zimbabwe] say we cannot agree to the text, we need more time to study it, or we disagree with something somebody said, so we need more time."

U.N. diplomats say the delaying tactics are in part because of the government's reluctance to be seen as a country in need.

In the meantime, the U.N.'s humanitarian aid chief says there are fresh reports that the campaign of evictions is continuing.

"As late as the last couple of days we heard of ongoing evictions in Epworth, which we have raised with the government," he added. "This is a large farm the government says was illegally occupied during the fast track land reform, but they've been living there for years, and now they are being evicted, without a clear plan for what will happen to these people."

The aid official says while the funding drive is stalled, other attempts are being made to provide help for the displaced, many of whom are scattered around the countryside, living in the open or in overcrowded shelters.

Mr. Egeland says the lack of funds remains a critical problem.

"Our team on the ground is working to reach agreement with the government to increase access to the population in need, to get donor funding for our programs," he said. "Donor funding is not good, though in areas like food we have got promising pledges, among others from the United States."

Zimbabwe's government had portrayed the slum demolitions as an urban renewal project, saying new housing would be built for the displaced. But the report last month by U.N. envoy Anna Tibaijuka said as many as 700,000 people had lost their homes.

A response issued by the Harare government said the Tibaijuka estimate was exaggerated.

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