High level SIDA delegation visits UNICEF programs
On January 21-22, 2014 a team from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) in Stockholm visited Zimbabwe to gain an understanding of the situation of children and women, learn how the UNICEF country programme is responding to national priorities and needs, and see what programmes are supported by Swedish funding.
The team comprised Mr. Per Knutsson, Head, Multilateral Coordination Unit, Stockholm, Ms. Anna Wrange, Deputy Director, Department for Multilateral Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Stockholm (Responsible for UNICEF), Ms. Lena Rupp, Policy Specialist and UN and UNICEF Focal Point, Multilateral Coordination Unit, Stockholm, and Ms. Ann Stödberg, Senior Policy Specialist/World Bank Coordinator, Multilateral Coordination Unit, Stockholm. They were joined by the Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, H.E. Lars Ronnås, Mr. Magnus Carlquist, Head of Development Cooperation, and Ms. Lena Forsgren, Programme Officer.
Joining the delegation from UNICEF was the Representative Mr. Reza Hossaini and several programme officers. The team visited sites in Goromonzi, Rusape, Mutare, and Buhera across the four programme areas in which UNICEF works – health and nutrition, water and sanitation, basic education, and child and social protection.
School Improvement Grants
The team visited Nehanda Primary School in Goromonzi district. The school head, Mr. Maokami, informed the delegation that with funds from the School Improvements Grants programme, the school had been able to purchase teaching and learning materials - mainly stationery for use at ECD and early grades – and classroom furniture. They had also managed to repair floors and verandahs in 5 classrooms and glazed broken window panes in the whole school.
The school is part of the School Improvement Grant pilot project in Goromonzi District and received 2013 grants worth USD 4,500.
Urban Wash Rehabilitation
Following the 2008/2009 cholera outbreak, the Government of Zimbabwe, UNICEF, NGOs, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and GIZ, with support from donors including Sweden, launched several initiatives to address the underlying causes of cholera, including, inter-alia, the WASH Emergency Rehabilitation and and Risk Reduction (ER & RR) programme, Bulawayo Water and Sewerage Response (BOWSER) programme, and the Zim-fund programme.
These initiatives have contributed to the sector slowly transitioning from emergency to recovery phase and contributing to the reduced incidence of water related diseases including cholera. In 2013, the Small Towns WASH Programme which builds on the ER & RR was launched with a USD 30 million contribution from the Australian Government. It aims to rehabilitate water supply and sanitation systems in 14 towns, including Rusape.
In Rusape, the delegation was briefed on the UNICEF supported WASH interventions, which have been implemented since 2009 and have resulted in the following;
Harmonized Cash Transfer Programme
As part of the Child Protection Fund, which supports the Government’s National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (2011-2015), the Harmonised Cash Transfer System was introduced to reduce household food poverty in labor-constrained and food insecure households. As of December 2013, 40,328 households have received unconditional cash payments. Depending on the composition of the household, recipients receive between USD10 to USD25 a month, which is disbursed bi-monthly.
Some members of the delegation visited Gogo Antonia Chirumbo (64), who lives with her two grandchildren Reuben (11) and Jane Mary (12) in Nyabadze Village. Gogo Chirumbo is one of the 5,270 households receiving the cash grants in the district. She has been single-handedly taking care of her two grandchildren as her husband died in 1998. Reuben was abandoned by his mother when he was 18 months old after she re-married and started a new life while Jane Mary’s parents passed away when she was four years old. Jane Mary is living with HIV.
With the USD20 she receives every month, Gogo Antonia has managed to pay school fees for one of her grandchildren, buy school books, food and other basic commodities. She also grows maize to supplement her income.
Strengthening Community Support for Children with Disabilities
The delegation visited the Strengthening Community Support for Children with Disability (SCSCD) programme being implemented by Mercy Corps in partnership with the DSW. UNICEF supports the programme with Swedish thematic funding. Through the programme, children with disabilities gain access to assistive devices and other materials through a small grants scheme. The programme also supports parent groups through the introduction of internal savings and lending schemes (ISALS).
Families have used their grants to buy washing powder, water proof mattresses, wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Community groups have purchased equipment to enable children to participate in mainstream activities. Income generating activities are intended to increase the capacity of families and groups to provide for themselves in the longer-term.
Mercy Corps is also beginning to work with local government authorities and community case care workers to link the children and families to the case management system so that the other vulnerabilities they face may be comprehensively addressed.
Health and Nutrition
Munyanyi clinic serves people who are mostly peasant farmers and of very low income. The clinic provides basic preventive and curative services and is linked to Murambinda Mission Hospital (designated district hospital for Buhera district) for referral of very sick patients and those requiring surgical procedures. Munyanyi clinic provides care and treatment to patients on out-patient basis except for delivery services.
The delegation was met by the Buhera District Medical Officer and staff at the clinic who explained that the major issues attended to at the facility included maternity care, ANC and delivery, post natal care services, minor medical cases which can be treated on an outpatient basis, ART, malnutrition, and other chronic illnesses. The clinic also offers preventive services including immunization for under-fives and HIV testing and counselling.
The delegation had a chance to meet with members of a peer support group of HIV positive children and adolescents that meets every week at Munyanyi Clinic. The group included members of the Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters (CATS) who are adolescents living with HIV and have undergone child protection training for an improved understanding of protection issues surrounding children with HIV. One of the main objectives of CATs is to ensure that adolescents adhere to treatment as some had the tendency to stop taking treatment because of fear of stigmatization or simply because they did not feel sick. The group however said they enjoyed the support of the community and Africaid who provided adolescent-led counselling and treatment support. The peer counsellors said however that they required support in income generation or furtherance of their education since some were taking the voluntary work as a job.
The Junior Parliament of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has one of the most active and vibrant Junior Parliaments in Africa. Started in 1991, in commemoration of the June 16th Day of the African Child, the current Junior Parliament has 320 members and is modelled on the senior Parliament of Zimbabwe. Junior Parliamentarians are directly elected into office by their peers using an electoral college where schools participate. The responsibility of the Junior Parliamentarian is to represent the concerns of young people from the constituency at national level and to advocate for issues affecting young people in their various constituencies. A notable achievement of the junior parliamentarians was their participation in the constitution-making process which resulted in the adoption of a bill of rights for children.