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In Southern Africa, Humanitarian Aid For the New Year Focused on Zimbabwe


A confluence of events has led to an increase in food and health needs in Zimbabwe. Like other parts of southern Africa, Zimbabwe has been the victim of drought, and a subsequent decline in crop production. Critics say the poor have also been negatively affected by social policies, including disruptions in food production and cash crop exports by the government’s appropriation of many commercial farms. United Nations figures estimate that the situation has affected about 160,000 households made up of former farm workers.

Also, a controversial program to remove rural migrants from the capital, called Operation Restore Order, has left up to 700,000 without food and shelter. Over a million people in Zimabwe’s rural areas are said to need food aid.

Stephanie Bunker is a spokeswoman for the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs in New York City.

Out of the 214 million dollars of aid we’re seeking for the country,$ 62 million of it is for food aid. There is a lot of food insecurity…there are people who are still affected by Operation Restore Order and who do not have appropriate housing. (There are) lots of people with a lack of access to basic social services. (Galloping) inflation is very serious issue...this makes it harder for people to meet basic needs….”

The UN estimates that up to 20 percent of the country’s 11 million people are affected by HIV / AIDS. Over a million are said to be living with HIV/ AIDS, while another 1.4 million children have lost either one or both parents to the disease.

Zimbabwe is also the home of over 3,000 refugees, and about two million people born in the country, but whose citizenship the government disputes.

The country is also affected by a loss of skilled labor. Says Bunker: “They have a lot of emigration going to neighboring countries where (people) can make a better living and they are not earning in local currency, which is eroded by inflation. That is how a country like Zimbabwe loses its teachers, doctors, and nurses. You also have a lot of migration from within the country from rural to urban areas, and this has its implications for the life in the countryside, food production and for the people who have emigrated into the cities who are struggling to support themselves there.”

UN agencies are asking donors for $214 million dollars in aid in the coming year. Projects would include agriculture and livelihood support for 300,000 households; improve educational services for 150 thousand children and temporary shelter to about 4,200 people. Health programs would inoculate over five million people against disease, provide health care for nearly three million mothers and children and provide improved access to sanitation for 2.5 million people. (http://ochaonline.un.org/humanitarianappeal/webpage.asp?MenuID=8875&Page=1500)

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