Zimbabwe and UNICEF have released a report concluding the southern African nation needs about $45 million to address the health care and employment needs of the country’s youth.
If President Robert Mugabe’s government does not take action, Zimbabwe would experience a population boom while the crime rate would increase by about 12 percent in the next 10 years as unemployed youths embark on vices that include robbery and unprotected sex, according to the report released Thursday.
In an interview, UNICEF-Zimbabwe head of social policy and research Samson Muradzikwa said time is running out.
“The youths need our help and to be able to do that we need to invest wisely and now ," Muradzikwa said. "So figures of about $44 million or so between now and 2025 to address critical gaps is important. We are losing every day from all these youths lying idle, we are calculating that the country is losing between $1 and $2 billion because of idleness and youth underemployment."
More than three quarters of Zimbabwe’s population of about 13 million are young people. The under 35's have been the majority of the protesters in the current wave of demonstrations that have rocked President Mugabe’s government.
Zimbabwe Youths Minister Patrick Zhuwawo said the figure of $44.7 million needed to address the problems of health care and unemployment would be difficult to secure locally; but, he is optimistic the issues raised by the report would be attended to.
“It very feasible because within any particular investment space you got limited resources," Zhuwawo said. "So given whatever level of resources we have as a nation, are now able to make that those resources are applied in as effective and in as efficient and economical manner as possible on the basis of this report.”
Besides basic health care and employment needs, issues the report said needed attention were early marriages, unintended pregnancies, high school dropout rates, especially for girls, high risks of contracting HIV and marginalization in mainstream economic activities as a result of resource mismanagement and corruption.
Zimbabwe's social sector, once an envy of many developing countries, has during the past 15 years been mainly left for Western donors to support.