|© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2006|
|Ongoing violence has hampered other relief efforts and disrupted children’s health and education.|
UNICEF Zimbabwe Chief of Communication James Elder, says that the rise in beatings, killings and arson is worrisome as the country prepares for a runoff election scheduled for some time before 31 July.
“Children are either watching their family’s homes burn and livestock killed or worse – themselves being beaten or attacked in some way,” said Mr. Elder. “It’s an enormously worrying time and one that UNICEF deplores in the strongest possible terms."
“These people have lost so much that they could ill afford to lose.”
Health and education threatened
1.4 million children in Zimbabwe have been orphaned, mainly due to the AIDS crisis.
For years, UNICEF and its partners have provided essential health and education services to these children, but local partners on the ground have been threatened and prevented from doing their work over the recent months.
“Zimbabwe’s education system has a very proud record and most of these children, whether they’re orphaned or not, would have been in school. But obviously if they’re being run out of their home areas, it’s an additional problem they face,” said Mr. Elder.
UNICEF and its partners are providing relief assistance to the displaced, including clean water and blankets. But the violence has hampered other ongoing relief efforts throughout the country.
Violence is occurring throughout the country in the communal, farming and urban areas and there are indications that the level of violence is escalating.
“One little boy who was about ten told me he didn’t understand who the people were who were attacking his family because of this political situation. He watched as they lost the two pieces of livestock that they had. He watched as his uncle was beaten. And he was obviously petrified during this and then fled and has left school has left everything,” said Mr. Elder.
Last week, the UN agencies in Zimbabwe warned that if the current violence continues, the conditions could reach crisis levels.
UNICEF Zimbabwe Chief of Communication James Elder discusses the effect of post-election violence on children.