The Zimbabwean government and international partners including the United Nations Childrens Fund have launched a program to meet the basic needs of orphans and other categories of vulnerable children, reaching out to some 80,000 households.
Funded by UNICEF in partnership with the European Commission, Netherlands, Sweden and Britain, the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Phase II will run until 2015. It proposes to strengthen families through cash transfers to the poorest households, provide education aid through the Basic Education Assistance Module and deliver child protection services for survivors of child abuse and other traumas.
Officials said US45 million in funding has been made available for the program out of a funding target of US75 million.
Vice President Joice Mujuru said the program was an "unprecedented social protection mechanism." She said the Harare unity government will continue to devise meaningful and innovative ways to boost support to orphans and vulnerable children and help families and communities meet the needs of such children.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said he had "long argued that social protection should be a priority for the government of Zimbabwe and that it should remain so in the coming fiscal years," and that the program would help the government meet this objective.
UNICEF said the program aims to help a million children with each family getting up to US25 dollars a month to meet its immediate needs for food and health care.
Labor and Social Welfare Minister Paurina Gwanyanya-Mpariwa said program grants will go a long way to alleviate the suffering in Zimbabwe communities.
UNICEF Representative Peter Salama said "protecting children from poverty, harm and abuse begins with reducing their vulnerabilities; cash transfers are one of the critical components that will contribute to the realization of children’s rights."
Dr. Salama said the National Action Plan will ensure children have equal access to services, regardless of where they live or their particular vulnerabilities.
Lawmaker Gabriel Ndebele, a member of the Parliamentary committee on health and child welfare, told VOA reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga his committee asked UNICEF and other donors to work with the committee to ensure equitable distribution of funds.
Reverend Forbes Matonga of Christian Care commended the program, saying it stands to lift many Zimbabwean children out of abject poverty.