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Zimbabwe: Helping the people hit hardest by evictions

© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2005/Elder
After their home was demolished, Barbara Fero and her disabled nine-year old daughter Elaine have been given a new start thanks to support from UNICEF and other organizations.

By James Elder

HARARE, Zimbabwe, 8 August 2005 - Barbara Fero has always been a survivor. Having overcome poverty to raise her nine-year-old disabled daughter after the death of her husband – all while living with HIV/AIDS – Barbara felt she could surmount any challenge.

But in June her home in the working-class suburb of Mbare was demolished as part of what the Zimbabwe Government calls a ‘clean up’ campaign.

“Since the evictions I have been constantly sick,” she says. “I do not have a place to take a rest, I can not afford adequate meals, I am on ARV [anti-retroviral] treatment and I can not afford to get my next monthly supply. My daughter, Elaine, needs to be accompanied to her school as the transport is no longer reliable and I do not have money.”

Enter the United Nations: In partnership with a local NGO, UNICEF is assisting Barbara and her daughter with blankets, cooking pots and soap. More importantly, Barbara is one of more than 100 women who are members of the Zimbabwe Parents of Children with Disabilities Association.

More than half a million made homeless

The Association is receiving key emergency humanitarian assistance. UNICEF will fund the location of rental accommodation for affected families with disabled children, pay their rent, and provide support for transportation and income generation projects.

“It’s more than what I could hope for,” says Barbara, “it’s exactly what we need.”

Barbara is one of more than half a million people made homeless by the Zimbabwe Government’s Operation Murambatsvina. According to the Government, the Operation is aimed at “cleaning up cities and fighting the black market across Zimbabwe.”

The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that Zimbabwe is grappling with the combined effects of its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, a drought, an HIV/AIDS pandemic and the world’s fastest rise in child mortality.

Demand for help outstrips supply

UNICEF, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the International Office of Migration (IOM), the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society and local non-governmental organizations are providing hundreds of thousands of people with protection from the cold (blankets and plastic sheeting), sanitation facilities, food, and shelter. These organizations are also providing chronically ill people with supplies for home-based care.

But as UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr. Festo Kavishe, points out, demand continues to outstrip supply. “We have been working around the clock for the better part of three months and are improving the situation for tens of thousands, but such is the gravity of the situation that we are asking the international community to support the people of Zimbabwe.”

Despite the current shortfall in international aid, humanitarian agencies are expanding their operations all across the country to meet the challenges. UNICEF is now helping organize additional mobile medical clinics and planning the distribution of more blankets and shelter materials for children and their families. An IOM/UN-Habitat pilot project is underway to provide accommodation for more people.
As Barbara prepares to take her belongings to a new home, she says, “I still have much to fight for. My daughter is my world and I will keep going for her. This support gives me strength.”



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