Jan Egeland the United Nations' top relief coordinator, is back from a trip to Zimbabwe. Mr. Egeland went there following a U-N report that condemned the government of President Robert Mugabe for demolishing low income housing and informal markets. According to the U-N, seven-hundred-thousand people lost their jobs or homes as a result of the campaign. The slum demolitions greatly aggravated the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, where people are already struggling with high unemployment, commodity shortages, and spiraling food prices. Six months after their homes were demolished, Mr. Egeland says, the evicted residents face a crisis:
"It's heartbreaking to meet victims of the eviction campaign who are now back in the same place, only in much worse shelter than the house that was bulldozed.... They may be out in the open or they are back in the same place like the old grandmother I met who showed the bricks with which her house was made of earlier, and she also showed the shack of plastic and branches in which she lives today."
Mr. Egeland says the situation in Zimbabwe is very serious:
"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 are a million AIDS orphans. There is now chronic food insecurity. There is a lack of social services including lack of health services."
Tiseke Kasambala is a researcher with the independent monitoring group Human Rights Watch. She says the most vulnerable group in Zimbabwe is the children:
"We have found that children have now developed malnutrition as a result of a lack of food and we visited a number of children...in the Harare city hospital suffering from pneumonia from sleeping out in the open, in the cold, for months on end."
"Corruption, mismanagement, and repression have devastated the Zimbabwean economy and caused great hardship for the people. Next year may be even worse. The current planting season has gotten off to a horrible start because of government policies that have led to shortages of fertilizer and other inputs.
Sadly, the government’s response to Mr. Egeland has been to ignore the substance of his critique and prescriptions and to attack him personally. Its reaction only underscores that it has run out of ideas and offers no credible response to the worsening economic and humanitarian crises. As U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, "Zimbabwe's leaders have a responsibility to address the political and economic problems that have wrecked what only a few years ago was one of Africa's success stories."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.