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United Nations In Zimbabwe Says Violence 'Could Reach Crisis Levels'

The United Nations country team in Zimbabwe on Tuesday expressed concern at the escalation of political violence and the impact that attacks in rural areas have had on humanitarian assistance, urging political leaders to restrain supporters.

U.N. Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator Agostinho Zacarias told journalists that political violence "could reach crisis levels." He said the U.N. had asked the government for help in assessing the extent of the mainly rural violence.

Meanwhile, Zacarias said, mounting violence mainly directed against the opposition is preventing humanitarian agencies from reaching many of those in need.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

Zimbabwe church leaders meanwhile warned that social conditions have continued to deteriorate in urban districts as well as the rural areas worst hit by political violence.

The National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations says the violence has disrupted humanitarian work and prevented people living with HIV/AIDS from receiving home-base care or obtaining life-saving antiretroviral drugs.

The group said some HIV/AIDS patients have been displaced, and aid workers have stopped outreach programs out of fear for their lives.

Church officials said their efforts to assist people are being thwarted as ZANU-PF militants chase away or beat people seeking shelter or food.

Pius Wakatama, a spokesman for the Christian Alliance, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that such violence and an ongoing crackdown by the government, combined with an ever-deepening economic crisis, suggested that Harare is losing control of the situation.

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