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UN Appeals for Humanitarian Aid to Zimbabwe - 2004-04-02


The United Nations is appealing for more than $94 million to provide urgent humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe. The United Nations says economic mismanagement has brought Zimbabwe to the brink of a serious humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations says Zimbabwe's economy is a shambles and getting worse. It says inflation has shot up from 100 percent in 2000 to 600 percent this year. And, last year, it says, the Gross Domestic Product dropped by 13 percent.

Spokeswoman for the U.N. agency which coordinates humanitarian assistance, Elizabeth Byrs, says the impact on Zimbabwe's population has been devastating.

"The latest assessment of the urban population indicates that almost 2.5 million are vulnerable due to food insecurity and lack of access to basic services," she said. "This appeal aims to help reverse these trends. Funding is required to prevent loss of life."

The United Nations Children's Fund says children are the main victims of the ongoing humanitarian crisis. For example, it says school fees have risen more than 2,000 percent in some cases. This means many children no longer can afford to go to school and are dropping out.

It says many parts of the country lack safe water and sanitation and health services have become unaffordable to many. Zimbabwe currently is in the grips of a cholera epidemic.

Another major concern to the United Nations is HIV/AIDS. UNICEF spokesman, Damien Personnaz, says there are nearly 800,000 AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe and almost 700 children are dying every week because of AIDS-related sicknesses.

"This is probably unacceptable," he said. "Nothing is really done to combat the disease. Nothing is probably done to prevent the disease among the sexually active population. Nothing is being done at the community level to take care of the orphans. This has also a very big effect, not only for the present, but also for the future of the whole country because these children will not be part of the active population in one or two decades."

UNICEF's share of the U.N. appeal comes to $11 million. Mr. Personnaz says the money will be used to distribute food to AIDS orphans, strengthen the health services, provide safe water and sanitation and make sure children get a primary education.

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