United Nations Humanitarian Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland briefed the U.N. Security Council Monday on crises in the Darfur region of Sudan, in Uganda and neighboring countries where the Lord's Resistance Army has spread chaos, and in Zimbabwe, where millions face hunger and hundreds of thousands remain homeless.
"More is currently at stake in Africa than on any other continent in terms of lives saved or lost," Egeland said in his briefing to the Security Council. "As humanitarian workers, we cannot accept that so many lives are lost every year on this continent to preventable diseases, neglect and senseless brutality," he said.
More than 10 million people in Southern Africa need food - a situation which could deteriorate in 2006, especially in Zimbabwe and Malawi, he said. The humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe "has worsened significantly in 2005," the U.N. envoy reported.
Mr. Egeland's grouping of Zimbabwe with Darfur and war-torn Uganda suggested that he regards the crisis in the country as very serious indeed - "a meltdown," as he told reporters upon concluding a four-day assessment trip there earlier this month.
Mr. Egeland's briefing on Zimbabwe to the Security Council was reminiscent of that by U.N. Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka, who visited the country at the tail end of the state campaign against illegal housing and markets called Operation Murambatsvina.
She estimated that the government's demolition of unlicensed homes and market stalls left some 700,000 people without dwellings or livelihoods or both. Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned the demolition drive as a "catastrophic injustice."
Mr. Egeland similarly condemned the operation Monday, saying that the government took "the worst possible action at the worst possible time." He called on African states to be more engaged on Zimbabwe and work with the international community.
“From my discussions with the government of Zimbabwe, I am convinced that the UN and the humanitarian community at large must try to engage more actively with the government," Mr. Egeland told Security Council members.
For perspective on the continuing crisis in Zimbabwe, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga of Harare.