EC aid to help prevent "looming crisis"
Thursday 25 August 2005
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ZIMBABWE: EC aid to help prevent "looming crisis"

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 15 April (PLUSNEWS) - Aid efforts in Zimbabwe this week received a financial boost from the European Commission (EC) to the tune of €15 million (US $17.8 million).

The EC funds are expected to support emergency food aid, bolster agricultural recovery and improve delivery of social services. The money will also go towards providing assistance to internally displaced people and strengthen humanitarian coordination efforts.

"Over the past few years we have witnessed a spectacular decline of living conditions for millions of Zimbabweans. By working through professional and independent partners, ECHO [the EC's humanitarian aid office] has been able to ensure that EU humanitarian aid reaches vulnerable people in need. I urge the Zimbabwean authorities to continue to allow unfettered access for humanitarian organisations, so that the further development of this looming crisis can be prevented," Poul Nielson, EC commissioner for development and humanitarian said in a statement on Wednesday.

The country's weakening economy was seen as one of the key reasons for the near-total collapse of water, sanitation and other services in Zimbabwe. Inflation stood at over 500 percent at the beginning of the year, while over 60 percent of the labour force was out of work. An estimated five million Zimbabweans are dependent on food aid.

The EC highlighted the soaring levels of HIV infections, noting that during 2003 an average of 2,600 adults and 690 children per week died of AIDS-related illnesses. "Forgotten" diseases like cholera and dysentery had also started showing epidemic dimensions.

Assistance would focus on key sectors most affected by declining economic conditions, namely food security and health, water and sanitation, the EC said. The funds would also support food distribution to children in schools, and supplementary and therapeutic feeding for people suffering from malnutrition.

Local farmers will be given seeds, tools and fertilisers to enable them to continue producing food, while assistance will be provided to help repair small crop irrigation systems, with vaccinations and other veterinary care for livestock, the EC said.

Water and sanitation systems in rural communities are to be rehabilitated, and new water points constructed.

The aid is also expected to assist ex-commercial farm workers. According to the EC, farm acquisitions under the government's land reform programme deprived about 15 percent of the population, who were previously employed on commercial farms, of a regular income.

"These former farm workers have no access to communal land, and many have left their region in search of work. These internally displaced people will be specifically targeted through food aid and access to health services, water and sanitation sectors," said the EC.

An estimated 1 million children, 500,000 farming households (about 2.5 million people), and 150,000 orphans are expected to benefit from the EC aid.


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