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UNICEF intensifies emergency response in Zimbabwe

HARARE, 2 December 2008 – Amidst an unprecedented cholera outbreak, the collapse of Zimbabwe’s education sector and hospital closures, UNICEF Zimbabwe today announced a rigorous 120 day emergency response to intensify relief efforts to the country’s children.

Zimbabwean children, already bearing the brunt of a shattered economy, severe food shortages, HIV/AIDS and failing social services, as well as suffering the acute effects of a lack of food, water and health care, are now succumbing to cholera and are not likely to return to school even after their Christmas break.

“Women and children are facing immense risks in Zimbabwe,” said UNICEF acting country Representative, Roeland Monasch. “Schools and hospitals are closing, while teachers, nurses and doctors are not reporting for duty. It is UNICEF’s top priority to ensure that Zimbabwe’s children get vital life saving interventions at this critical time.”

The 120-day emergency response will see UNICEF focus on relief efforts in the provision of basic social services. UNICEF will increase health outreach services, provide nutritional supplements, boost school attendance, and scale up access to safe water in the short term.

Key life-saving interventions will include:

  • Provision of clean water and sanitation
  • Procurement of essential medicines for 70 per cent of the Zimbabwean population
  • Support community-based therapeutic feeding centres by providing ready-to-use nutritional foods across the country
  • Reaching 1.5 million children with immunization services
  • Scale up educational support to communities and schools through provision of learning materials
  • Emergency support and protection for 250,000 orphans and vulnerable children in all districts of the country
  • Roll out a nationwide awareness campaign on cholera prevention
  • The emergency plan will also provide incentives for teachers and nurses to return to work.

Zimbabwe has recorded negative economic growth for the past nine years, the situation is exacerbated by;

  • a high HIV prevalence at 16 per cent;
  • the highest orphan percentage in the world (one in four children are orphaned);
  • food shortages -5.1 million will require food aid in January 09; and
  • a steady decline of social services for the past five years.

However, in the past eight weeks, the country has seen a total collapse of its education and health system. In addition, more than 11 735 cases and 484 deaths have been reported in the worst cholera outbreak the country has experienced in recent years. The net effect on Zimbabwean children has been no schooling, a serious threat to their life, lack of health care, safe water and reduced number of meals.

 “Children in Zimbabwe are on the brink, and everyone’s focus must now be on their survival,” said Mr. Monasch.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact:

Tsitsi Singizi, UNICEF Zimbabwe , Tel: 263-91 2 943 915  tsingizi@unicef.org
Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF African Service Unit, Tel:+27 11 5171617, sbloemen@unicef.org
Miranda Eeles, UNICEF Geneva, Tel: +41 22 909 5715, meeles@unicef.org
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York: +1 212 326 7426, pmccormick@unicef.org





UNICEF Zimbabwe Communications Officer Tsitsi Singizi discusses the need for a systemic solution to the country's cholera outbreak.
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