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Hidden hunger at Harvest House

The Movement for Democratic Change was put in a fix when more than 2 400 displaced persons, including 471 children, camped at its headquarters at Harvest House after fleeing from the violence in the run-up to the presidential elections run-off of 2008.

The party, which had been able to provide the displaced person with two meals a day when they were still about 500, had reduced the meals to one a day and was running out of food.

Although party leader Morgan Tsvangirai had set up a Victims Assistance Fund, the money had not yet been channelled into the country from the donations made abroad.

The party was thinking of sending back some 300 back to their homes but most of the displaced persons were concerned that they would have nowhere to live if they returned.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08HARARE522, HIDDEN HUNGER AT HARVEST HOUSE: THOUSANDS OF IDPS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08HARARE522

2008-06-20 09:14

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO3986

OO RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0522/01 1720914

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 200914Z JUN 08

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3047

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2066

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2186

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0728

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1463

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1821

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2242

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4673

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1332

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000522

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E. LOKEN AND L. DOBBINS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/20/2018

TAGS: PGOV PREL ASEC PHUM KDEM ZI

SUBJECT: HIDDEN HUNGER AT HARVEST HOUSE: THOUSANDS OF IDPS

AT OPPOSITION HQ

 

REF: A. HARARE 503

B. HARARE 470

 

Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i. Glenn Warren for reason 1.4(d).

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Two months after the start of a

government-led campaign of violence, as many as 2,400

homeless and hungry Zimbabweans, including at least 471

children, many of whom are ill, continue to seek sanctuary at

Harvest House, the opposition MDC’s Harare headquarters. On

June 19, poloff toured the building with a local contact who

is working to assist the displaced and saw evidence of the

plight of these opposition supporters and their families, all

of whom fear for their lives if they return home, have no

home to return to, or both. There are few resources being

directed toward this vulnerable group. IDPs are surviving on

one small meal a day and have extremely limited access to

supplies, including medicine, baby formula, and sanitary

products. Frustrated by the large number of people in its

headquarters and its own limited resources to help them, the

MDC is rumored to be considering ending its meager assistance

in an effort to force them to return to their homes. END

SUMMARY.

 

2. (SBU) On June 19, poloff visited MDC headquarters at

Harvest House in downtown Harare, escorted by a local

opposition supporter who is attempting to virtually

single-handedly assist an estimated 2,400 internally

displaced persons (IDPs) who have sought shelter there. The

IDPs went to Harvest House to seek sanctuary after ZANU-PF

security forces, war veterans, or youth militia, destroyed

their homes and/or threatened them during the government’s

post-March 29 election crackdown. (NOTE: The number of IDPs

at Harvest House has sharply increased since the last

reporting cable (Reftel B) on this subject. END NOTE.) In

addition to nearly equal numbers of men and women, some 471

children are living in the seven story building that also

houses all central MDC operations, including the office of

the president, Morgan Tsvangirai. While many IDPs travel

outside of Harvest House during the day, in the evening the

house, which rarely has electricity, is reportedly packed,

with men staying on two of the bottom floors and women and

children on the top floor. All inhabitants are sleeping on

the floor, often without blankets, and sharing the offices’

limited toilets and sinks.

 

3. (SBU) Many of the IDPs have reportedly been hospitalized

for injuries related to the ZANU-PF campaign of violence, or

for illness bred by current living conditions at Harvest

House. Poloff observed numerous women and children who had,

according to our contact, a variety of illnesses, including

pneumonia, diarrhea, and HIV/AIDS. There were reports of two

recent cases of measles. Two children seen by poloff were

just returning to Harvest House from the local hospital after

bouts of pneumonia. Families are often separated and some

children are being cared for by relatives because one or both

of their parents is in the hospital due to government

perpetrated injuries or recent illness. We observed a number

of men with casts encasing broken arms or legs; some were in

wheelchairs.

 

4. (SBU) Food and other commodities are in severely limited

supply. With money reportedly pooled by members of

parliament from affected provinces, the IDPs are provided

with one meal per day of sadza, the Zimbabwean staple made of

corn meal, with relish, down from two meals per day in late

May (Reftel B) when the population at Harvest House was

estimated at 500. While NGOs have reportedly been assisting

the IDPs, the recent government suspension of NGO operations

(Reftel A) and the prevailing climate of fear associated with

political activities, in addition to soaring prices and

 

HARARE 00000522 002 OF 002

 

 

scarcity of commodities, mean that the supply of assistance

for the IDPs is quickly drying up. IDPs are increasingly

reliant on donations and discounts from individuals. While

our contact reported that she had recently been able to

secure donations of anti-retrovirals and antibiotics and had

made a large purchase of food, she noted that the supply

could last only a few days. Many in Harvest House are going

without such critical medicines as insulin and blood pressure

reducers.

 

5. (C) When asked about the MDC’s response to the situation,

the contact reported that she had been told that the majority

of Morgan Tsvangirai’s Victim Assistance Fund (Reftel B) had

not yet been channeled into the country from donations made

abroad. Furthermore, she reported, the MDC was so

overwhelmed with the number and needs of the IDPs that it was

considering cutting off assistance in order to force the

displaced to return to their home areas in time for the

election. (NOTE: While poloff was unable to confirm this,

it tracks with a comment made to poloff by an MDC official,

who stated the MDC was planning to return the IDPs to their

homes, and with recent reports by the MDC that it had

transported some 300 people back to their home areas. END

NOTE.) Our contact reported that IDPs remain fearful of

being abducted, injured, or killed if they return to their

homes, and/or are concerned they will have no where to live

if they return.

 

6. (C) Our contact told us she had set up two Harare

safehouses for the IDPs, one of which is in her own home.

She had focused on moving as many mothers with infants and

young children out of Harvest House as possible in order to

reduce their exposure to illness and to address sanitation

issues. When asked what was most needed to contain the

spread of disease and assist the IDPs, the contact reported

that food and supplies, particularly medicine and baby

formula, were priorities, but that ultimately rent money for

additional Harare safehouses (ideally two at approximately

US$500 per month per house) was imperative.

 

7. (SBU) COMMENT: No matter that the MDC plans to do, the

situation at Harvest House is grim, with no indication of

improvement on the horizon given the government’s ongoing

crackdown on any and all activities that may be perceived to

be favorable to the opposition. Those NGOs that can operate

and those donors willing to assist are stretched thin by the

overwhelming need throughout the country in the wake of the

violence and government suspension on NGO activities. As a

result, IDPs in Harvest House are considered, as indicated to

us by the International Organization for Migration, to be a

low priority because they are “within the MDC’s purview.”

END COMMENT.

 

Warren

 

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