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Zimbabwe Humanitarian Situation Fragile Despite Economic Stabilization - UNDP

  • Gibbs Dube

The agency said it has upwardly revised its estimate of how much aid is needed for 2010 by US$100 million to some US$478 million - mostly for additional food aid - of which about 34 percent has been raised so far

The United Nations Development Program says the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe remains fragile despite the relative stabilization of the economy seen since a national unity government took office 17 months ago.

The agency said it has upwardly revised its estimate of how much aid is needed for 2010 by US$100 million to some US$478 million - mostly for additional food aid - of which about 34 percent has been raised so far.

“Overall funding lags behind in comparison to the last two years," it said. "The food cluster is the best funded at 69 percent of its original requirements while the lowest are agriculture, education, nutrition and protection.”

The UNDP report said insufficient funding for recovery and development is a key obstacle to the emergence of the country from its long-standing situation of "generalized humanitarian need."

Numerous children face chronic or acute malnutrition due to shortages of food or out-of-reach food prices, said the agency. National cereal production in the 2009-2010 cropping season of some 1.5 million tonnes was up slightly from 2009, but remained below national requirements for some 1.7 million metric tonnes.

“Rates of chronic and acute malnutrition stand at 35 percent and 4 percent respectively, re-emphasizing the need to concentrate on reversing these trends while maintaining steady emphasis on care for acutely malnourished children,” the U.N. development agency said.

It noted the urgent need to support restoration of livelihoods and food security, prevent the depletion of productive household assets in crisis situations, support early recovery and reduce dependence on aid.

Chief Communications Officer Micaela Marques de Sousa of the United Nations Children’s Fund or UNICEF told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that more humanitarian aid is needed with the economy still very weak.

“The poor people continue being the hardest hit as they cannot get money to send their children to school, pay rent and buy foodstuffs in a dollarized economy," de Sousa said.

Elsewhere, the Zimbabwean Ministry of Health is launching a campaign to vaccinate vulnerable Zimbabweans against the H1N1 or swine flu virus, which never produced the pandemic feared by global authorities.

But national and international health officials still want to protect as many Zimbabwean school children, health workers, pregnant women and chronically ill people as possible in case the virus resurfaces.

Zimbabwe recorded its first confirmed cases of Swine Flu in August 2009, but such cases have been few.

Dr. Portia Manangazira, head of epidemiology and disease control in the Ministry of Health, cautioned that although the H1N1 virus did not affect as many people in 2009 as had been feared, it could return in force when the flu season begins again in the northern hemisphere.

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