Zimbabwe

FURTHER ASSISTANCE TO ZIMBABWE

AusAID media release

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
STEPHEN SMITH

11 February 2010 was the first anniversary of the swearing in of Mr Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister in Zimbabwe's Inclusive Government, a significant milestone in Zimbabwe's recent political history.

This followed on from the 15 September 2008 Global Political Agreement, which created the Inclusive Zimbabwe Government.

Australia continues to support Prime Minister Tsvangirai in his view that the Global Political Agreement presents the best prospect of a better future for Zimbabwe.

Late last year, Australia decided it would consider opportunities for Ministerial engagement on a case-by-case basis with those Zimbabwean Ministers making a genuine contribution to the country's social and economic recovery.

Consistent with this policy, I met today in Sydney with Zimbabwe's Minister for Finance Tendai Biti, to discuss ongoing reconstruction efforts in Zimbabwe.

I had previously met Mr Biti in London on 28 January.

Recent modest improvements in Zimbabwe's economy are largely due to the reforms implemented by Finance Minister Biti.

Australia believes it has a responsibility to support Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his Ministers in their effort to bring positive change to Zimbabwe.

Australia will continue to bolster the cause of reform in Zimbabwe.

Following the formation of the Inclusive Government in February 2009, Australia was one of the first countries to deliver what has become known as 'humanitarian plus' assistance.

This goes beyond emergency relief and includes longer-term measures to help restore essential services, such as water, education and healthcare.

To advance this effort, Australia will provide a further assistance package of $13 million to improve access to clean water, sanitation services and food security in Zimbabwe.

This assistance will build on Australia's efforts to improve basic infrastructure such as pipes and boreholes, and help reduce the threat of diseases such as cholera.

As part of this package, Australia will provide $8 million for activities supporting UNICEF's program for water and sanitation rehabilitation in Zimbabwe. The program will work directly with local authorities to rehabilitate systems and improve their capacity to deliver services.

This will increase access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services for over two million people in urban and rural areas, including Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo.

Relief agencies estimate two million Zimbabweans still require food assistance. Food insecurity is likely to persist into 2011.

A further $5 million will be provided to Australian Non Government Organisations to work with their Zimbabwean partners in water and sanitation and food security.

Australia understands the risks of providing assistance in Zimbabwe. We work with reputable organisations and have implementation and monitoring systems in place to minimise the risk of funds being misused or misdirected.

The package I announce today again goes beyond purely humanitarian relief to include 'humanitarian plus' assistance.

Since the establishment of the Inclusive Government, such Australian 'humanitarian plus' assistance has included:

- $5 million for cooperation with UNICEF to support Zimbabwe's local authorities take control of and responsibility for water infrastructure;

- $5 million working with the United Kingdom Department for International Development to provide incentives to health professionals to rejoin a collapsed health system;

- $5 million through the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, an Africa-wide initiative that finances private sector activities, that will boost Zimbabwe's rural economy and address the long-term food security needs of the Zimbabwean people;

- $2 million through UNICEF to support Zimbabwe's Ministry of Education in acquiring much needed material, including text books, for Zimbabwean schools;

- $6 million for assistance to build Zimbabwe's taxation administration and mobilisation of technical expertise in water and sanitation, in cooperation with South Africa.