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Harare Clears Way for Relief of Those Displaced by Cleanup

In an abrupt shift - and under mounting international pressure - the government of Zimbabwe has given permission for local and international non-governmental organizations to provide relief to those displaced by the ongoing program mass evictions and home demolitions.

The change in Harare's stance was announced Wednesday at a meeting organized by the Father Fidelis Mukonori, a Catholic priest. Present were NGO representatives, local government officials, and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo.

National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations Executive Director Jonah Mudewe welcomed the move and said NGOs could move as soon as Thursday to address what he called "a serious situation."

He said an emergency aid committee has been set up as a contact point for the NGOs that wanted to provide assistance to the internally displaced population which has been estimated at 200,000.

Studio 7's efforts to contact Mr. Chombo were unsuccessful. But Father Mukonori said in an interview with Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that the government has undertaken to provide housing for about 30,000 people in Harare, while new vendor stands will be allocated to informal sector vendors with payment of fees over several years.