Zimbabwe's water, sanitation, and
health crisis has received a $10 million boost from the government of Australia
to help restore basic services as officials fight off an appalling cholera
emergency. Half of the money will be
directed at sanitation projects coordinated by the UN Childrens Fund
(UNICEF). The other $5 million will help
pay salaries of local health workers, many of whom have been sidelined by the
country's enormous financial strains.
to Australia's water assistance, acting State Department spokesman Robert Wood
said Wednesday that Washington is reviewing its aid policy. "We've said basically that we want to see how
this unity government performs before we can make any type of decision on
providing assistance. Humanitarian aid
we will continue to provide, but that was clearly a decision taken by the
Australian government," he noted.
The US has curtailed almost all except
humanitarian aid to the former Harare government for several years to show its
disapproval of the policies directed by President Robert Mugabe. But the US Agency for International
Development (USAID) did contribute $6.2 million last December for Zimbabwe
water, sanitation, and health programs.
Cross (IFRC) Senior Water and Sanitation Officer Robert Fraser says the Australian contribution is a
welcome addition to the international effort to resolve Zimbabwe's cholera
certainly welcome all efforts of the international community to assist
vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe, and we ourselves have long-term sanitation
programs, particularly supported by the European Union. And we are looking forward to expanding those
activities that we have in Zimbabwe. And
so anybody else who can support those longer term programs will reduce the
number of people in Zimbabwe that are vulnerable to diarrheal diseases," he
88-thousand Zimbabweans have fallen victim to cholera since the crisis began in
August of last year, and almost four thousand have died from the outbreak,
which is attributed mainly to the collapse of sanitation services, corruption
of the urban water supply, and shortcomings in local and urban garbage collection
systems. Some foreign governments,
including Australia's, had previously shied away from sending finances beyond
humanitarian help for fear that the funds would be misused by the Mugabe
government. Fraser says he cannot
confirm that the new unity government in place since February 11, with Morgan
Tsvangirai as Prime Minister, has redesigned spending practices, but he points
out that international aid agencies have had a long, constructive working
relationship with government, water and health professionals in Zimbabwe.
longer term programs in Zimbabwe have not suffered from any sort of negative
inputs from the government at all. And
we are very pleased that especially at the grassroots level, we've had a lot of
support and very easy interaction with the Zimbabwe government, and therefore,
I think perhaps that some of the press reports are unfair. It is possible to work very well in Zimbabwe
with government," he said.
describes the Red Cross role in Zimbabwe's sanitation and water rehabilitation
as a collaborative effort, working closely with other international agencies
under a United Nations umbrella.
course, UNICEF leads the WASH Cluster, Water and Sanitation and Hygiene
Cluster, of which we are a member. So we
can only improve the conditions in Zimbabwe and many other countries by working
together with the United Nations under that umbrella so that the different
actors can coordinate and support each other in trying to meet Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) and improving conditions for many people," notes
says that Red Cross workers in Zimbabwe are working closely with their
volunteers and humanitarian partners in emergency response teams to respond
more effectively to sudden cholera outbreaks around the country.
Zimbabwe at present, we have seven emergency response units . Four of those response units are dealing with
water sanitation and hygiene promotion and three of those units are providing
clinical support, working closely with the Ministry of Health and other
organizations working there. And we have
a variety of those emergency response units on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a
year. And we deploy to major disasters
around the world fairly regularly. These
are teams of trained technicians and engineers.
Doctors, who also arrive with equipment, and so on, ready to deal with
almost any natural, and manmade disaster worldwide," he observed.
this week, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
warned that the incidence of cholera and other diarrheal diseases is rising
sharply throughout the developing world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. A combination of rapid, unplanned
urbanization, poor hygiene practices,
and a shortage of safe water were cited as major factors behind the steep climb
in reported cases over the past two years.
However, the effects of climate change that have promoted the frequency
and intensity of floods and droughts is also believed to escalated the risks
posed by cholera and other water-borne diseases. In economically strained Zimbabwe, Fraser points
out the problem has been exacerbated by the departure of highly qualified
always had a very high reputation for the quality and the standards of its
health service providers, particularly the Ministry of Health, and
unfortunately, many of them have moved to work in neighboring countries or even
as far afield as Europe, so that some of those capacities, unfortunately, have
been lost," he laments.
Addressing the natural and manmade factors
of climate change, flooding, and the erosion of a safe water supply, Zimbabwe's
water professionals are hopeful that the new unity government will be able to
attract international support and accelerate efforts to reverse the spread of
the menacing cholera epidemic.