BY MELODY CHIKONO
THE United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) is appealing for emergency funds amounting to US$75 million to avert a humanitarian crisis that is likely to affect about half of Zimbabwe’s population.
In its report on Zimbabwe titled: A Humanitarian Situation Report, Unicef says at least 6,8 million people, 1,8 million of whom are children, will need food and sanitation assistance, while 4,1 million people will need healthcare help.
“Unicef is appealing for US$74,7 million to meet increased humanitarian needs in the country in 2021 as a result of the multiple hazards of drought, residual impacts of Cyclone Idai and floods, Covid-19 and diarrhoeal disease outbreaks, and the economic crisis compounded by the current Covid-19 outbreak. As of March 31, 2021, funds totalling about US$8,1 million (11% of the total 2021 funding requirement) had been received from various donors that include China, ECHO, Japan, US Fund for Unicef, USA (OFDA), FCDO, Sida Denmark, Danish Committee for Unicef and Unicef Global Thematic,” Unicef said.
Zimbabwe is battling humanitarian challenges that were exacerbated by Covid-19 and adverse weather patterns in recent years.
The report suggests that the number of people at risk of starvation has risen despite government shelling over US$3 billion since 2016 under command agriculture targeted at alleviating starvation.
While 2021 began with prospects of a better harvest due to improved rainfall, the country continues to face multiple hazards such as food insecurity, Covid-19 and economic crisis.
Unicef reported that despite a steady decrease in year-on-year inflation rate for the month of March 2021 at 240,55%, down from 321,6 % in February 2021, Zimbabwe was still in hyperinflation with basic services out of reach for many.
“An estimated 6,8 million people, including 2,8 million children urgently require humanitarian assistance in 2021. As of 31st March 2021, Zimbabwe reported 36 882 cases of Covid-19, 34 686 recoveries and 1 523 deaths. Overall, only 3,1% of the country’s population has been exposed, with the rate in urban areas being 6,7%, and rural areas having 1,6%.”
“The country remains significantly susceptible to further surges in Covid-19 infections. This year approximately 384 254 children under the age of five are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition, with pockets of increased severe cases of malnutrition particularly in urban locations such as Epworth. Covid-19 and its restrictions have adversely affected households’ income thus adversely affecting affordability of and access to nutritious foods by the affected families,” Unicef said in the report.
Unicef reported that the delivery and utilisation of essential life-saving health services for children and women has been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than three million people lacking access to safe water and sanitation.
According to the UN agency infrastructure is old, poorly maintained and in disrepair.
The 2021 Humanitarian Action for Children projects that 1,3 million children will need child protection services, including psychosocial support and services addressing gender-based violence, violence against children and protection from sexual exploitation.
The current socio-economic challenges faced by families and communities have protection consequences and disruption in service delivery.