UN calls on Zim to tackle economic, humanitarian crises

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New York - Zimbabwe's new government of national unity needs to immediately address the economic and humanitarian crises, including the country's worst ever cholera epidemic, says United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"The period ahead will also be critical for consolidating human rights and democratic freedoms," Mr Ban said on Wednesday, pledging full United Nations support.

He welcomed the swearing-in of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister in a unity government with President Robert Mugabe.

"The United Nations reiterates its offer of support to the new government in its recovery efforts to ease the suffering of the Zimbabwean people."

Mr Ban recently met with Mr Mugabe at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa where he stressed to him that the government must protect the human rights and democratic freedoms of all Zimbabweans.

"I urged him to release all those arrested or secretly detained in recent months. I remain especially concerned about the humanitarian situation," he said, noting that an estimated 3 400 people have died of cholera and more than 69 000 have been infected.

Zimbabwe has been faced with a worsening humanitarian situation owing to years of failed harvests, bad governance and hyperinflation, as well as months of political tensions after the disputed presidential elections in March involving Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai.