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UN Appeals to Donors for $30 Million Zimbabwe Relief

The United Nations has unilaterally launched an appeal to its members for $30 million in humanitarian assistance for Zimbabwe, in effect waiving the customary procedure that the recipient country’s government co-issue or sign off on the request for funds.

A U.N. spokesperson said the emergency relief coordination office issued a "common response plan" appeal on Tuesday without Harare’s direct participation. This followed weeks of discussions as to how to frame an initially proposed “flash appeal.”

President Robert Mugabe’s government eventually declined to approve an appeal that would be based on the U.N.'s finding in July that slum clearance operations in May-June left approximately 700,000 people homeless or jobless or both.

Rather than coming from the government, this week’s appeal to donors was requested by the U.N.’s Zimbabwe country team, according spokeswoman Kirsten Knutson of the humanitarian affairs office. She acknowledged that it “was not a standard appeal.”

Though Harare was not formally a party to the appeal, she said, the government “does not object to this action,” which was “done by way of consultation” with Harare. Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland voiced personal frustration in late August that his office had not been able to reach agreement with the Zimbabwean government to launch the appeal, initially proposed in July.

Talks were eventually reopened but still did not yield a mutually acceptable appeal draft. Zimbabwe’s United Nations ambassador, Boniface Chidyausiku, said the government would consider aid provided through the appeal to be “supplementary” to efforts by Harare, which said it could meet national needs with its own means.

Food is in critically short supply in many areas of the country and the government has been seeking a large loan from South Africa to import maize and other staples.

Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked Mr. Chidyausiku to explain Harare’s position with respect to the appeal.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...