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ECHO donates 1.6 million euros to UNICEF for Zimbabwe's children

HARARE, ZIMBABWE, 20 September 2004 - The European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) in Zimbabwe has contributed EURO 1,600 000 to UNICEF for providing targeted assistance to the country’s most vulnerable women and children. 

“We are very grateful to the European Commission for their continued commitment to assist Zimbabwe’s vulnerable women and children,” said Dr. Festo P. Kavishe. “This generous contribution will go a long way in helping vulnerable women and children through building on already existing programmes.”

The funding comes at a time when many families and communities continue to struggle with the consequences of diminishing access to basic social services, the aftermath of three years of drought and the impact of the AIDS pandemic.  Zimbabwe, with an estimated HIV infection rate of 24.6% and approximately 1,820,000 living with the disease, currently faces one of the highest AIDS prevalence rates in the world. The number of orphaned children continues to grow, with close to 800,000 children under the age of 18 having lost one or both of their parents to AIDS (Children on the Brink, 2004).  Of the more than one million orphans, many children are dependent on elderly grandmothers or live in child headed households, having to care for younger siblings and forced to survive on their own.

The contribution will target malnourished children, orphans and other vulnerable children, especially child headed households, as well as the families and communities supporting these children. It also builds on the existing UNICEF programmes that were initiated with ECHO support received in 2003/2004.

The funding will specifically support:

Nutrition Interventions

Food shortages worsen the plight of those living with and affected by AIDS and diminish the overall health status of the population at large, especially children.  Children are more likely to suffer the effects of acute or chronic malnutrition and are in turn more susceptible to disease. ECHO’s support will ensure that therapeutic feeding programmes operating at District Hospitals continue to benefit severely malnourished children, and that treated children are further supported once they are discharged and return home.  

These hospital-based interventions, carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, will be complemented by a pilot community based nutrition programme.  The programme seeks to better educate communities and health workers to identify the signs of malnutrition, understand how to manage them and to refer children to the hospital if their condition worsens.

Initial anecdotal research indicates that children suffering the worst forms of malnutrition are more likely to be HIV positive.  In addtion, malunutrition increases their risk to other infections and the likelihood that they will be less responsive to treatment.  The project looks to expand referral systems for these children and their families to include additional HIV/AIDS services that could improve their overall wellbeing.

In order to ensure a more comprehensive response for improving the nutritional status of children in Zimbabwe, ECHO support will assist UNICEF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and NGOs, to coordinate nutrition related activities and create better systems to monitor their impact.

Water and Sanitation Interventions

ECHO support to UNICEF will strengthen coordination and data collection mechanisms to allow for a more accurate understanding of the country’s water and sanitation needs.  Currently an estimated 50 per cent of all existing water facilities are in need of repair, and additional facilities are urgently required to meet demand.  Through better coordination and information sharing, women and children have greater access to safe water and sanitation. 
Support will also be used to identify the numbers of orphaned and other vulnerable children in 16 targeted districts who are without access to safe water and sanitation. These children will then be given priority.

Care and Support for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children

Building on an existing network of community based organizations established last year with support from ECHO, 31,000 orphans and other vulnerable children will be assisted to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing.  Interventions will include the provision of shelter and access to improved nutrition, emotional and access to education or vocational training. 

“This partnership with UNICEF to assist the most vulnerable women and children is part of our much larger commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe,” said Aadrian Sullivan, ECHO's field expert based in Zimbabwe. “We believe our collective efforts can help mitigate the devastating impact of the current crisis in the country and ensure that children are better able to cope in the future.”

UNICEF Zimbabwe works both at national level and in 16 target districts in the country in areas of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, education and life skills in efforts to ensure the basic rights of all children are realized.

For more information, please contact:

Shantha Bloemen, Communications Officer, UNICEF Zimbabwe, Tel. +263 4 703941/42 Mob. +263 91 27 6120, sbloemen@unicef.org




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