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EC funds bring welcome relief

An MSF aid worker treats a cholera patient in Beitbridge, Zimbabwe on the border with South Africa
(Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF))

The European Commission (EC) has allocated US$11.3 million in humanitarian aid to help people in Zimbabwe affected by the breakdown of essential health and water services.

"The new unity government has to address numerous challenges to place Zimbabwe on the path to recovery. The country ... is facing an enduring humanitarian crisis, compounded by the collapse of basic social services," Olli Rehn, the EC's Acting Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said in a statement on 2 June.

The funds have been earmarked for medicines and medical supplies, water treatment equipment, and spare parts to upgrade water infrastructure; projects are to be implemented by non-governmental relief organizations, UN agencies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement.

Health system in crisis

As a result of Zimbabwe's protracted socioeconomic crisis, access to health services and safe water has sharply deteriorated, "as demonstrated by the largest cholera epidemic ever recorded in Africa," the statement noted.

Life expectancy has been dropping, maternal mortality has dramatically increased and high rates of HIV infection prevail. "It is our duty to bring timely and consistent support to assist ... at this critical juncture," Rehn said. The EU is the biggest donor to Zimbabwe's public health sector, providing at least 60 percent of essential drugs available.

Humanitarian plus

International donors suspended development assistance to Zimbabwe after elections  were found to be neither free nor fair, but the country's extensive needs prompted the humanitarian community to expand its recent request for funding in the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) from US$550 million to around $719 million.

According to the CAP document, six million people have limited or no access to safe water and sanitation, 1.5 million children require support to access education, 800,000 people are in need of food aid, and 44,000 children younger than five years need treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

''Donors realize the importance of not only addressing the symptoms, but also the root causes of many of the humanitarian problems''

"Donors realize the importance of not only addressing the symptoms, but also the root causes of many of the humanitarian problems, such as the recent cholera outbreak and food insecurity currently witnessed in Zimbabwe," Muktar Ali Farah, the Officer in Charge at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Zimbabwe, told IRIN.

"The 'humanitarian plus' activities included in the revision of the CAP 2009 ... will provide donors with the window needed to enable them to invest in these early recovery activities that are still considered to be of a time-critical and life-saving nature."

Funding provided outside the CAP 2009 was also significant and "currently amounts to $158 million, of which $77 million is for food aid, $32 million in support of food security and agriculture, and $29 million for the cholera response," Farah said. The Southern African Development Community has provided $30 million in agricultural support directly to the government of Zimbabwe.

USAID, another major donor, has also reported funding outside of CAP initiatives, but the EC is still Zimbabwe's most important donor, having provided well over $800 million in both humanitarian and development aid since 2002.


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:

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