Australia to help Zimbabwe move forward

Australia will provide $10 million to help Prime Minister Tsvangirai and the so called inclusive Government of Zimbabwe to restore basic water, sanitation and health services and relieve the suffering of the Zimbabwean people.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, last month took the last resort step of forming a power-sharing Government with Robert Mugabe and his ZANU (PF) party.

The challenges faced by the new Government are formidable. Zimbabwe's economy and its health and education systems have collapsed. Seven million Zimbabweans are dependent on food aid, around three-quarters of the country's population. More than 4,000 people have died from cholera since August 2008.

Australia's assistance to Zimbabwe to date has been limited to humanitarian aid. The Government plans to expand Australian assistance to support efforts by Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his Ministers to bring sustainable and long-term improvements to the lives of Zimbabweans.

The Government recognises there are some risks to this approach. We are under no illusions about the fragility of the political situation in Zimbabwe

Australia will contribute up to $5 million through UNICEF to local authorities for the urgent provision of water treatment chemicals to selected urban centres throughout Zimbabwe. This will help urban councils, who now have authority for water and sanitation, begin the task of restoring basic services and address the ongoing cholera epidemic.

Australia has previously provided $6 million to support international efforts against cholera in Zimbabwe.

Australia will also provide $5 million to support short-term incentive payments for health workers through the United Kingdom Department for International Develeopment. Medical and nursing staff in Zimbabwe have had to seek alternative sources of work as a result of the country's economic and social collapse and the unreliability of salary payments from the Mugabe Government.

Australia's funding will assist their return to work in hospitals and health care centres around the country, and support the resumption of essential medical services.

These commitments will bring Australia's support for Zimbabweans to almost $36 million in 2008-09.

Australia will continue to consider Zimbabwe's humanitarian and reconstruction needs.