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Local Rights Group Urges Faster Pace of Relief in Zimbabwe

Though Zimbabwean authorities have closed down transit camps at Caledonia Farm outside Harare and and Helensvale Farm near Bulawayo, humanitarian groups are expressing concern about displaced persons abandoned at Hopely Farm on the between Harare and the satellite town of Chitungwiza.

Members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said aid organizations that helped displaced families at Caledonia and Helensvale farms have been slow to assist the estimated 1,500 people at Hopely Farm. Many of them were removed from Caledonia Farm by authorities and dumped at Hopely Farm, a former commercial farm without facilities or amenities for the displaced.

Relief organization sources told the human rights organization that they cannot deploy fully without security guarantees from the Harare government. The human rights organization raised the question of whether relief agencies were setting too many conditions and therefore delaying the delivery of aid to the needy.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reached Damien Personnaz, a Geneva-based spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, which is one of the agencies present in Zimbabwe, and asked him what has been slowing the response to the humanitarian crisis there.

Elsewhere, a United Nations officials expressed concern at reports that Harare may not have halted Operation Murambatsvina (“Drive Out Rubbish”) despite a statement Wednesday by Vice President Joyce Mujuru that it had done so. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that while Secretary General Kofi Annan has agreed in principle to visit Zimbabwe, the visit cannot take place before there is reliable confirmation the operation has ended.

Meanwhile, the Harare government said it is drafting a response to the scathing U.N. report on Operation Murambatsvina that was released on July 22, and will present it to the world body as soon as it is completed.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told reporter Chris Gande of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the 48 hours which Zimbabwe was given to respond to the final report handed to it July 20, was not enough for a proper response.

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