Nearly $720 million sought for Zimbabwe aid efforts – UN

Zimbabwean children use sticks and dirt as pens and paper in an outdoor classroom near the Mozambique border

1 June 2009 – Aid agencies in Zimbabwe today issued an appeal for $718 million to meet the humanitarian needs of some 6 million people in the southern African nation, an increase of $168 million from the original appeal launched last November, the United Nations announced.

The country has witnessed a sharp decline in the provision of basic services, considered to be one of the root causes of the spread of cholera which has infected nearly 100,000 people and claimed nearly 4,280 lives to date, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

The collapse of basic social services, combined with food insecurity and hyperinflation, has left 6 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

In November 2008, agencies had requested some $550 million to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, of which only $246 million has been received. Those funds have helped save lives by containing the cholera outbreak, providing food and agricultural assistance to vulnerable populations, and supporting vital social services including health, water and education.

Aid requirements have, however, outstripped the funds sought previously, OCHA added.

A UN inter-agency mission that visited Zimbabwe in February stressed that the country’s humanitarian crisis remains grave, and urged both the Government and the international community to support the strengthening of aid efforts.

“We hope that donors will continue to be generous to the people of Zimbabwe who need help to save and rebuild their lives after years of adversity,” said Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Ms. Bragg, who led the assessment mission in February, added that adequate support now for a crucial sector such as agriculture will ensure that those who are currently dependent on food aid will be able to feed themselves next year.

In addition to resources to effectively contain the cholera outbreak and help improve food security, funds are also needed to enhance health care and repair water and sewage systems.

According to OCHA, 6 million people in Zimbabwe have limited or no access to safe water and sanitation in rural and urban areas. Also, some 1.3 million Zimbabweans are infected with HIV/AIDS, including 133,000 children under the age of 14. There are also 1.5 million orphaned and vulnerable children, including over 100,000 child-headed households, and thousands who remain internally displaced.

Aid agencies are concerned that unless conditions change, outbreaks of water-borne diseases at the onset of the next rainy season could lead to new cholera cases, and a serious humanitarian crisis, OCHA stated.

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