Zimbabwe still neck-deep in crisis

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Zimbabwe’s fragile six month power sharing government is struggling to raise funds from international donors as they have so far pledged less than half of the US$718 million in aid needed to stave off hunger and disease in the Southern African country.

UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Zimbabwe, Augustino Zacarias on Wednesday said although Zimbabwe is not facing armed conflict, humanitarian threats such as food shortages and the outbreak of diseases such as cholera pose a significant challenge. “Sadly, only 44% of Zimbabwe’s appeal of 718 million had been raised by the end of July” he said.

The United Nations says six million people have little or no access to safe water and sanitation, which helped spark a devastating cholera epidemic that infected nearly 99 000 people and killed 4 288 over the last year.

An estimated 2.8 million Zimbabweans need food aid, while 1.5 million children require support to access education. The nation’s problems are worsened by the high incidence of HIV, which infects 15.6% of the adult population.

Since the veteran leader Robert Mugabe began chaotic land reforms nine
years ago Zimbabwe has suffered chronic food shortages since, but the crisis worsened dramatically in August last year as a nationwide cholera outbreak erupted. Zacarias said improved co-operation between Harare and UN agencies has resulted in better access to the neediest people and improved co-ordination.

Western countries have so far proved reluctant to give aid directly to the government, demanding that Mugabe undertake more reforms to respect human rights and media freedoms, while curbing politically motivated attacks.

Earlier this month Finance Minister Tendai Biti told donors that Zimbabwe actually requires $45bn in the next 10 years. The figures are a huge leap on the eight billion dollar figure used by the Zimbabwe authorities earlier.
Biti says the country actually needs five times what it has been asking for up to now, to bring its economy back to where it was in 1996.

He is now pleading with donors to give money directly to the government, and not channel it through NGOs.

The Movement for Democratic Change knows that Western donors are wary
of sending money through the Reserve Bank. Last year US47.3 million US dollars, given by the Global Fund to pay for malaria drugs, was diverted to government projects though the money has since been paid back.

The coalition government faces a mammoth task to rebuild donor confidence but claims that Zanu-PF is not upholding its side of the bargain, could mean that donors remain sceptical.

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