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More funds needed to cope with worsening conditions

[Zimbabwe] Child with food aid
Zimbabweans are struggling to cope with the ongoing economic crisis (Obinna Anyadike/IRIN)

In an effort to cope with worsening humanitarian conditions in Zimbabwe, the United Nations is seeking additional funds to support relief efforts through to the end of the year.

The request, a revision of the Consolidated Appeal launched last July, focuses on strengthening social service delivery, supporting the country's recovery and tackling HIV/AIDS.

The total US $95.4 million in funding requirements for 2003 to the end of 2004 includes US $31.1 million requested by local and international NGOs. So far only US $10.5 million in contributions has been received since the initial appeal was launched last year.

"The review and update specifically focuses on strengthening the delivery of basic social services, HIV/AIDS and recovery to reverse the downward humanitarian trend in the country," UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, Victor Angelo, said in a foreword to the appeal.

"The main objective in this regard is to prevent loss of life. This will be achieved by striving to meet minimum standards in delivering public health, water and sanitation and reversing the effects of HIV/AIDS," he added.

The country's weakening economy was seen as one of the key reasons for deteriorating social conditions. Inflation in Zimbabwe reached more than 500 percent at the beginning of the year and over 60 percent of the labour force is out of work.

A rapidly declining economy had meant that public services were seriously underfunded and often did not meet minimum standards, the appeal noted.

"The quality of and access to social services, in particular health and education, has further deteriorated due to funding and capacity constraints, resulting in critical shortages of health workers and teachers, as well as a lack of medical and learning supplies. Water and sanitation systems' capacity and quality, both in rural and urban areas, are also increasingly inadequate," the appeal said.

There was also concern that the 2004 harvest would be insufficient to ensure national food security - with an estimated five million Zimbabweans dependent on food aid and other social safety schemes over the coming months.

"In consultation with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, the government will consider making a separate appeal for general food aid once additional information on the performance of the current crop is available," the appeal said.

HIV/AIDS continued to be an overriding concern for the humanitarian community. Recent estimates indicated that some 25 percent of Zimbabwe's sexually active population was infected with HIV.

"Death and sickness are crippling the society, and profoundly undermining recovery prospects. The magnitude of this tragedy is depleting households as well as local and national public service capacity," the appeal noted.

Another area of concern was the living conditions in new resettlement areas, particularly with respect to former farm workers.

Former farm workers find themselves without access to income, land or social services, while at the same time, new settlers were arriving and competing for increasingly scarce resources, the appeal noted.

The UN has requested authorisation to conduct a humanitarian assessment in these areas in order to determine vulnerability and subsequently plan for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

One of the main priorities of humanitarian agencies until year-end was improving the targeting of food distribution to the most vulnerable. Activities would include the provision of basic food rations, supplementary feeding for children under-five, and therapeutic feeding, according to the appeal.

Targeted food aid programmes are also expected to bring much-needed relief to the urban population. The latest assessment estimated that almost 2.5 million people in high-density urban areas were vulnerable, due to food insecurity and lack of access to basic services.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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