9 December 2009The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, plagued in recent years by food shortages, an erosion of basic services and an economic downturn due in part to long-running political strife, has significantly improved but continued aid is still needed to maintain the positive gains, a top United Nations official said today. “Any sudden shock can wipe out the recent gains,” Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg said at the end of a three-day visit. “We must continue working together to avoid losing the momentum. The international community has been generous to the people of Zimbabwe in 2009 by granting $642 million for humanitarian needs. It is my hope that this will continue well into 2010.”During her visit, Ms. Bragg co-launched with Government counterparts the 2010 consolidated appeal for the southern African country, totalling $378 million, and met the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and five cabinet ministers in Harare, the capital.While acknowledging the Government’s main focus on recovery and development as crucial, she also stressed that humanitarian aid must not be neglected, as it continues to assist the most vulnerable communities.She noted the importance of the Government’s responsibility in sustaining the achievements to date, urging it to continue supporting humanitarian workers and to expedite the issuing of work permits to humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs).The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will continue working with local government structures on coordinating aid delivery at national and local levels, she added.OCHA noted that the erosion of basic services has left some 6 million people without access to safe water and sanitation, and the prolonged economic downturn has put their livelihoods at risk.More than 343,000 adults and 35,000 children under the age of 15 urgently need antiretroviral (ARV) treatment out of 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and a third of children under five are chronically malnourished. Moreover the country’s substantial cereal shortage means that almost 2 million people will need food aid at the peak of the 2010 hunger season between January and March, on top of a cholera outbreak which has spread to half of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces since September, OCHA said.Ms. Bragg also went to Mashonaland Central province to visit humanitarian projects backed by UN agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and their NGO partners.These included a district hospital with pre-positioned medical stocks in case of a cholera outbreak, a training programme for grassroots health workers, and a communal farm used as a demonstration site for farmers sharing good agriculture practices. read more
The Presidential commission investigating large scale fraud questioned popular dancers and choreographers Channa and Upali Wijewardana today over the entertainment provided at the opening of the Hambantota harbor.