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 Sunday 20 December 2009
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ZIMBABWE: Improving but still fragile

Photo: IRIN
Food security has improved but thousands of Zimbabweans will still be dependant on aid
JOHANNESBURG, 8 December 2009 (IRIN) - The humanitarian community in Zimbabwe, taking a cautiously optimistic approach, has appealed for US$378 million dollars to buy food and medicines, and bolster health, education, sanitation and access to safe water in 2010 - half the amount requested in 2009.

"We have noticed an improvement in the humanitarian situation," UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Catherine Bragg, said at the launch of the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) in the capital, Harare, on 7 December. The CAP is a planning and resource mobilization tool used mainly for emergency responses.

However, she was quick to add that things were "still fragile". "The needs may have reduced, [but] they remain astoundingly high due to the structural nature of some of the problems."

Despite significant improvements in food security, Bragg noted that an estimated 1.9 million Zimbabweans would still require food assistance at the peak of the 2010 hunger season, from January to March, and that "33 percent of children under age five are chronically malnourished". According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), seven percent in this age group suffer from acute malnutrition.

A cholera outbreak, which began in August 2008 and lasted a year, causing the deaths of more than 4,000 people and infecting nearly 100,000 others, re-emerged in October 2009, while "some 1.2 million people live with [HIV/AIDS], including 35,200 children under age 15 ... urgently need antiretroviral treatment," Bragg said.

Most of the money - over US$107 million - will go to agriculture. The health sector required some US$64 million, food aid around US$58 million, education US$35 million - there were severe shortages of essential supplies, high staff turnover, and teachers' strikes - water and sanitation US$46 million, and the remainder would address other needs like coordination and protection.

The 2009 appeal requested US$719 million, of which more than 50 percent went on food aid. OCHA said 64 percent of requested funding had been received, and a further US$185 million was added by donors outside the CAP.

Food and beyond

At a conference hosted by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa, on 4 December, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told IRIN: "We have very limited fiscal space because of a number of [competing] needs."

He said aid would continue to be required to handle Zimbabwe's enormous social service needs, and "[until Zimbabwe's GDP improves], humanitarian requirements will have to be supported by outsiders."

Tsvangirai said he hoped less assistance for food requirements would be needed in 2010 than in 2009. "There's been a huge improvement in terms of agricultural production, and we have put a lot of money and effort into ensuring that this current [growing] season even goes further, so that Zimbabwe becomes again self-sufficient in food."

Bragg said a deterioration in existing infrastructure was hampering meaningful economic revival, hence the need to combine assistance with support for "humanitarian plus", or early recovery, programmes. She noted that cooperation between government and the international community had greatly improved.

Zimbabwe's Minister of Regional Integration and International Cooperation, Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga, highlighted the importance of continued investment in agriculture to ensure food security, so that "Zimbabwe can begin to claim her rightful place as the breadbasket of Africa."


Theme(s): (PLUSNEWS) Aid Policy, (PLUSNEWS) Children, (PLUSNEWS) Economy, (PLUSNEWS) Education, (PLUSNEWS) Food Security, (PLUSNEWS) Water & Sanitation


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