Assistance to vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe

Amount of decision: EURO 15,000,000

Decision reference number: ECHO/ZWE/BUD/2004/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population:

1.1. - Rationale:

Zimbabwe faces a major humanitarian emergency due to long-term declining economic trends; a deep political and economic crisis, breakdown of the rule of law, lack of respect for democratic principles, widespread human rights abuses, high and probably increasing HIV-infection rates, a destroyed commercial agricultural sector, rapidly declining basic social services, dramatic reductions in life-expectancy, increasing property and generally bleak prospects for a return to normalcy. Whereas climatic fluctuations and the so-called "fast-track" land reform are no doubt crucial determinants for the current predicament, it is now quite clear that the Zimbabwean crisis is a deep, protracted, and a multi-dimensional humanitarian crisis.

Even under the most optimistic scenarios, it will take years for Zimbabwe to reestablish a firm recovery and development path. Zimbabwe was identified as a high need country in the ECHO Global Need Assessment 2004.

To indicate the scale of the humanitarian crisis, the United Nations Consolidated Appeal (CAP) for Zimbabwe, (July 2003 through June 2004), called for US$114 million in humanitarian assistance. This amount does not include the food aid requirements included in the July 2003 - June 2004 Regional Southern Africa appeal of US$533 million. Total food aid requirements, within the regional appeal, were estimated at US$308 million. Zimbabwe accounted for US$195 million, or 63% of the regional food aid requirements. Total estimated humanitarian requirements for Zimbabwe amount to a staggering US$309 million for the period.(1)

The December 2003 CAP review recommended to extend the appeal until December 2004. This recommendation follows a range of worsening trends such as late and erratic rains, inadequate planning for agricultural recovery, shortages of farm inputs and generally the Government's inappropriate economic and financial policies.(2) A revised humanitarian appeal is to be launched in February 2004.

Politically, the continued suspension and subsequent resignation from the Commonwealth (effective 7 December 2003), point to deep national and international concerns over human rights abuses, political violence, denial of freedom of the press, the threat of politicisation of humanitarian assistance and an absence of promising and visible openings to resume national and international dialogue and reconciliation. Additionally, the European Union adopted in February 2002 specific measures against Zimbabwe, pursuant to the provisions of Article 96 of the Coutounou Agreement. These measures include (i) the suspension of budgetary support, (ii) suspension of development operations that do not directly support the population and (iii) to reorient financing to support democratisation, respect for human rights and re-establishment of the rule of law. These measures, and attendant travel restrictions, were reviewed in early 2004 and extended on 19 February 2004 for a further period of 12 months, until 20 February 2005.

Economically, Zimbabwe has now had five years of consecutive negative growth during which the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by roughly 40%. Monetary policies and attendant negative real interest rates have fuelled inflation to levels that have caused deep distress to most Zimbabweans. Inflation has increased to 623% (January 2004) compared to prices a year ago. Unemployment is 80%.

Relations with significant bilateral and multilateral development partners are under considerable strain. Due to the accumulation of overdue financial obligations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended Zimbabwe's voting rights in June of 2003. For similar reasons, the World Bank has suspended all concessional lending to the country.

A 2003 review of the country's HIV/AIDS data has concluded that the adult infection rate is 24.6%. However, the study also finds that additional years of data will be needed to determine the trend of HIV/AIDS prevalence. Numbers of new AIDS cases and AIDS-related deaths continue to rise. New HIV infections in adults increased from 1984 to 1992. The trend declined between 1992 and 1998, but appears to be rising again after 2001. An estimated 2,600 adults and 690 children died of AIDS per week in Zimbabwe in 2003.(3) Zimbabwe counts over one million orphans, three quarters of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. This number is expected to increase to 1.3 million by 2005.

The revised CAP(4) recognises that humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe during the past two years has effectively contributed to save lives and has mitigated the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable groups.

In terms of lessons learnt, the CAP points to:

- The need to link humanitarian assistance to meaningful recovery interventions;

- The imperative to find effective dialogue with the Government specifically how its own policies and intentions shape the political, social, economic and humanitarian agenda;

- Improved humanitarian coordination through information management, streamlining of sectoral working groups and other coordination forums and specifically the need to bring Government representatives into these forums;

- The need for an ongoing quest to improve the knowledge of the humanitarian condition in Zimbabwe. (See section 1.4 for specific examples of important gaps in knowledge).


(1) The Commission is in dialogue with FAO and WFP about the magnitude of the vulnerable populations arising from the current needs assessment methodologies. There is scope for refinement and greater accuracy.

(2) Southern Africa, Regional Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal Update, November 2003.

(3) Zimbabwe National HIV and AIDS Estimates 2003, December 2003.

(4) (Draft) Zimbabwe 2003-2004 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal (CAP), January-December 2004.