Rights Group: Zimbabwe Slum Demolitions Disrupt Treatment of HIV/AIDS Patients
September 12, 2005
Scores of HIV/AIDS programs in Zimbabwe have been disrupted by the country's widely condemned Operation Murambatsvina ("Drive Out Trash") slum demolition campaign, according to a report released Sunday by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW). The 40-page document, "Clear the Filth: Mass Evictions and Demolitions in Zimbabwe," said hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have been forced to destroy their properties -- often at gunpoint -- without due notice, process or compensation, driving them into rural areas without basic services such as clean water, health care, and education.
The campaign, which began May 19, has displaced some 700,000 Zimbabweans, according to UN estimates. Almost a quarter of Zimbabwe's 12 million people are HIV-positive. While home-based treatment programs have provided care to urban patients, the report said many people are now sleeping out in the open or have moved to rural areas that lack access to antiretroviral drugs.
"Hundreds of people are now going to die because they will develop resistance because they can't get access to the drugs," said a health official with a local aid group, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.
Thousands are now displaced and without access to humanitarian assistance, particularly in rural areas where food shortages threaten, the report said. Zimbabwe officials have compounded the problem by refusing to cooperate with the UN and aid groups seeking to assist the displaced, said HRW. On Aug. 26, President Robert Mugabe's government rejected the terms of a draft UN emergency appeal designed to help hundreds of thousands of those affected.
"The Zimbabwean government has caused untold suffering to poor and vulnerable people," said Tiseke Kasambala, an African researcher at HRW, which urged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish a commission of inquiry to identify those responsible for the campaign.
09.11.05; Alexandra Zavis