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Elders Plead for More aid to Zimbabwe

A GROUP of eminent global leaders, among them former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan and ex-South African president Nelson Mandela, have written to development ministers in 18 donor countries and the European Commission asking them to respond “swiftly, generously and creatively” to Zimbabwe’s needs by providing “humanitarian-plus” assistance.


In a statement yesterday, the group, known as the Elders, said it had written to Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Commission asking for aid on behalf of Zimbabwe.

The Elders said they were concerned about lack of political and judicial reform in Zimbabwe which suggested that there was considerable determination in some quarters to resist political change. However, the Elders believe that in this context, the risks of inaction by donors outweigh the benefits of delivering increased aid to the inclusive government formed last February.

“The inclusive government needs more support to ensure that it can initiate the urgent stabilisation and early recovery programmes that the people so desperately need,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of the Elders. “Now is not the time for donors to take a ‘wait and see’ approach. This is the best chance Zimbabweans have had for peace and prosperity in decades.”

Annan, who visited southern Africa in November 2008 with former United States president Jimmy Carter and Mandela’s wife Graça Machel to draw attention to Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis, said there were times when a swift, generous and creative response is required.

“A rapid infusion of ‘humanitarian-plus’ resources are needed to help stabilise the country at this vulnerable stage in its recovery. Supporting the inclusive government to deliver better services will foster much needed change,” said Annan.

“Humanitarian-plus” is the term used for aid that is not limited to humanitarian needs but which does not extend as far as developmental aid or grants to government.

Donors provided around US$670 million in emergency aid to Zimbabwe in 2008 and more humanitarian assistance has been pledged for 2009, but they have indicated that they will not provide long-term development support until the government implements political and economic reforms.

The Elders agree that full donor re-engagement should be linked to reforms, but in private letters sent to donors this week, they pointed out that there was a big gap between the provision of emergency food and medical supplies, and long-term development assistance.

Humanitarian-plus funds, according to the Elders, are needed to bridge that gap — for example to rehabilitate water and sanitation infrastructure (the breakdown in water infrastructure was a major cause of the cholera crisis), provide teaching materials for primary and secondary schools, cover school fees for Zimbabwe’s estimated 1,3 million orphans and vulnerable children, support local food production, provide housing for the poor, manage waste and support the revival of the micro-finance sector.

The Elders acknowledged donor concerns about the need for transparent use of aid, but said there were times when flexibility was required and suggested that “humanitarian-plus” funds could be delivered through specially administered accountable mechanisms.

The Elders are a group of global leaders convened by Mandela and Machel, who offer their experience and independent voices to support the resolution of conflict and alleviation of human suffering. — Staff Writer.

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