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Relief Organizations Grapple With Scope of Zimbabwe Crisis

Relief for families evicted in the course of the Zimbabwe government’s five-week urban clean-up operation is gradually picking up, but aid organizations say they are overwhelmed by the problem as efforts are not yet well coordinated.

An informal survey of local and international aid organizations showed that they have not been able to mobilize quickly, so that thousands of homeless families remain without shelter, food or proper sanitation facilities. Churches, especially those in Bulawayo, have taken a central role in helping those in need.

Though relief organizations in principal received permission from the government to provide assistance more than a week ago, humanitarian sources said that the official authorization from the Ministry of Housing only came on Tuesday.

One focus of concern has been a collection point for the displaced at Caledonia Farm outside Harare, where organizations such as the U.N. Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, have provided the homeless with water and sanitation facilities.

But some expressed concern that Caledonia Farm is receiving assistance at the expense of other homeless people scattered around Zimbabwe, as some of the humanitarian organizations have taken government direction on where to send assistance. About 3,000 people are believed to be living on Caledonia Farm.

An official with the World Food Program said the organization wants to have the assessment of the humanitarian impact to be carried out by the U.N. special envoy who arrived in Harare this week before launching major relief. She said the WFP is providing a modest relief package of 12 kilograms of cereal, two kilos of beans, and cooking oil, to an unspecified number of displaced people.

Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Fambai Ngirande, a spokesman for the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, about how Zimbabwean NGOs are approaching the crisis.