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Children, Women Hardest Hit by Collapse of Zimbabwe's Social Services

A new report by UNICEF and the Zimbabwean shows reduced access to key social services for the poorest women and children especially those in rural areas.

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Ish Mafundikwa

A new report by UNICEF and the Zimbabwean government reveals a worsening situation for women and children in Zimbabwe. The report shows reduced access to key social services for the poorest women and children especially those in rural areas. 

The report paints a bleak picture of the situation faced by poor women and children in Zimbabwe.   Micaela Marques de Sousa, UNICEF Zimbabwe's chief of communications, says the report confirms what has been evident to observers for a long time.

"This report validates through evidence based data the situation of children and women in Zimbabwe in terms of maternal mortality, infant mortality in terms of child health in terms of particularly the most vulnerable, the children themselves," said de Sousa.

Data from the report which is the result of a survey conducted in May shows a 20 percent increase in under five child mortality since 1990. This, says UNICEF, means that 100 children are dying every day. Most of the under fives succumb to HIV/AIDS, newborn disorders, pneumonia and diarrhea. Children in rural areas and those in the poorest one fifth of the population are the most vulnerable, the report says.

The survey revealed stark disparities between the rich and poor saying the poor are hardest hit in terms of access to critical services in health and education.

The data also shows that 79 percent of orphans and vulnerable children are not receiving any form of external assistance. Further, around two-thirds of all children in the country do not possess birth certificates.

UNICEF says the survey is designed to provide policymakers with information they can use to make decisions on development priorities and budgets. In addition it provides data on Zimbabwe's progress in meeting international priorities like the so-called Millennium Development Goals.   UNICEF's de Sousa, however, says a lot is already being done to remedy the situation.

"It is also important to note that there are a series of actions being taken already in order to mitigate the situation not only from the support that UNICEF provides directly to the government but the government itself. With the inclusive government one of the key priorities of the government of Zimbabwe is to ensure that there is a revitalization of the basic social services; education health even water and sanitation supplies."she said. 

"With the inclusive government one of the key priorities of the government of Zimbabwe is to ensure that there is a revitalization of the basic social services; education health even water and sanitation supplies," she added.

She, however, cautioned that it would take time and a lot of money. The publication of the report comes just before the announcement of the national budget next month. De Sousa hopes the government will use the findings of the survey to allocate more funds to the rehabilitation of social services, which she said used to be amongst the best in Africa.

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