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UN Chief "Dismayed" at Harare's Rejection of AID

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said the U.N. leader is still “deeply concerned” by the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe and expressed dismay at learning that the Harare government recently rejected a U.N. offer of assistance.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric cited a decision by an inter-ministerial committee in Harare to decline an offer of emergency shelter for distressed Zimbabweans, including many displaced by Harare's May-July slum clearance campaign.

Mr. Dujarric said the U.N. received “an official communication” from Minister of Urban Development Ignatius Chombo “stating that there is no longer a compelling need to provide temporary shelter as there is no humanitarian crisis.”

Mr. Chombo “also claims that Government interventions have addressed the most urgent shelter needs,” Mr. Dujarric said. Mr. Chombo's statements “directly contradict” a report issued in July by U.N. Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka, “as well as the most recent reports from the United Nations and the humanitarian community.”

“A large number of vulnerable groups, including the recent evictees as well as other vulnerable populations, remain in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, including shelter,” he said. “Furthermore there is no evidence that subsequent government efforts have significantly benefited these groups.”

According to Mr. Dujarric, the U.N. secretary general noted that Harare's decision not to accept relief shelter in the form of tents “comes despite extensive consultations on relief efforts that ensued in the past months” between the U.N. and Harare.

Conditions for the displaced will worsen with the rainy season now at hand, added the statement from Mr. Dujarric on behalf of the secretary general.

"The secretary general is disturbed by the continued suffering and makes a strong appeal to the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that those who are in the open, without shelter and without means of sustaining their livelihoods, are provided with humanitarian assistance” through the U.N. and other agencies, he said.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with the Zimbabwean ambassador to the United Nations, Boniface Chidyausiku, who said discussions between Harare and U.N. humanitarian aid officials are continuing.

Reporter Zulu also spoke with British-based human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga, who condemned Harare for neglecting its responsibilities toward the displaced.

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