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Zimbabwe Doctors Slam Housing Demolitions

Police destroy a home on a farm in Harare
In Zimbabwe, the government's crackdown on vendors and illegal residential structures continues to arouse protests. Latest to voice its concern is the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights.

In a statement the doctors say they deplore "in the strongest possible terms the ongoing destruction of informal housing and businesses" in Zimbabwe's urban centers.

The 300-member association accuses the government of worsening the humanitarian crisis in a country facing severe food shortages and high unemployment.

The statement says that the exercise is victimizing the poorest members of the community - people it describes as "law-abiding citizens simply trying to survive."

The doctors expressed particular concern about the impact the campaign is having on children and families affected by HIV and AIDS. They noted that in one area the homes of six households headed by children and 40 households headed by grandparents were demolished.

The doctors also note that the exercise targeted settlements and informal businesses that were established with government approval and have been in existence for more than 10 years.

The statement says the crackdown is in violation of various international conventions to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

Miloon Kothari, of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, has appealed to Zimbabwe's foreign affairs minister to immediately halt the mass-forced evictions.

The government says the crackdown, which it calls Operation Restore Order, is aimed at ridding urban areas of illegal shelters, ending hoarding and illegal trade in necessities that are in short supply and clamping down on illegal foreign currency dealing.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which disputes the result of the March 31 parliamentary elections alleging violence, fraud and rigging, says the operation is aimed at punishing its urban support base.