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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2006, 05:00 GMT 06:00 UK
No help for Zimbabwe's homeless
By Peter Biles
Southern Africa correspondent, BBC News

A Zimbabwean woman, whose renting business in the slums was destroyed
Thousands of dwellings were destroyed last year
Church leaders say that almost nothing has been done to house 700,000 people in Zimbabwe who lost their homes and livelihoods in demolitions last year.

Operation Murambatsvina, which the government said was a campaign to clean up cities, was condemned by the UN.

The Solidarity Peace Trust, a church- based group, says the whole exercise has further impoverished many Zimbabweans.

A report says the situation remains dire 15 months later.

In some houses, people now co-exist in around one square metre per person of floor space
Solidarity Peace Trust

Out of more than 100,000 displaced people in the west of the country, not one person has been officially housed by the government, according to the Solidarity Peace Trust, which is co-chaired by the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube.

International donor organisations have fared little better in providing shelter, the report says. Only 800 temporary dwellings have been built nationwide, and all of these are around the capital, Harare.

Man cooking on a fire
The evictions left hundreds of thousands of people homeless
One victim quoted by the report accuses the authorities of leaving people to live like animals in the open air: "If government had done this and then said 'go stay over there', it would have been better, instead of destroying everything and leaving us like animals."

"It's like when you pull down a cattle kraal (pen), first you build another one. You put the cattle in the new kraal and then you destroy the old one."

Archbishop Ncube told the BBC that the government had failed to live up to its promises:

"They themselves said that they would construct 300,000 houses. They've constructed a few hundred houses and none of them have been occupied."

Traders hit

Operation Murambatsvina began with an assault on informal traders.

A year later, the informal sector - which accounts for 80% of the economy - is said to be in disarray.

Vendors and their families are sliding into even greater poverty, and legal trading sites need to be rebuilt urgently.

Although people in Zimbabwe's cities were forcibly moved and often dumped by the police in the countryside last year, 75% of those families are now reported to be back in the urban areas.

"In some houses, people now co-exist in around one square metre per person of floor space," the report says.

"Married couples are forced to sleep apart, unmarried adults are forced to share space, and single people live continually on the move, from one tiny house to another. "Children are exposed to sex-for-money activities, and face schooling difficulties from overcrowding and poverty."


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