UNICEF Humanitarian Action: Zimbabwe Donor Update 18 Jun 2007



  • 2007 CAP appeal just over 30 % funded
  • Major food crisis looming with 4 million people in need of assistance by the end of 2007.
  • Rapid deterioration of health, water and sanitation systems resulting in an increased number of vulnerable children and women


The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is characterized by the simultaneous presence of acute humanitarian needs and more protracted, chronic vulnerabilities. The most acute humanitarian needs include those of populations affected by serious food insecurity, HIV and cholera outbreaks as well as those displaced during the fast-track land reform programme, Operation Murambatsvina (OM) and more recent re-evictions. The more chronic vulnerabilities include inadequate access to basic social services, lack of agricultural inputs and disrupted livelihoods.

Recent studies report that the prevalence of stunting, which is the indicator for chronic malnutrition, is 30%. This is the highest since 1988. Acute malnutrition has remained relatively static at around 6% since 1999. The Government has declared 2007 a drought year with expectations of only a third of the harvest Matabeleland South is estimated to have lost about 95% of its potential harvest, while boreholes and dams are drying up.

Zimbabwe is one of the countries hardest hit by the HIV epidemic, with an adult sero-prevalence rate estimated at 20.1%. An estimated 1.6 million people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2006. More than half of all new infections occur among young people, especially girls. As a result, life expectancy has dropped from 61 years during the early 1990s to 34 years at the end of 2005 creating the highest percentage of children who are orphaned in the world, i.e. 24%. Of the estimated 1.6 million orphans about 75% have been orphaned by AIDS. In 2007 alone, 130,000 children will loose one or both parents. These children are in immediate need of psycho-social support and need access to basic social services.

The economic situation has led to the deterioration of the basic social services. Inflation is officially at over 4,500%, and in real terms perhaps twice that. The health and education systems, eroded by a combination of deteriorating infrastructure, public expenditures and high attrition of human resources, are now characterized by shortages of essential supplies, reduced accessibility by the poor, low motivation of staff and weakened planning and management capacities. Health has seen the highest erosion of human resources, from “brain drain” and AIDS with a 60 per cent and over 30 per cent vacancy rate for doctors and nurses respectively. With AIDS patients occupying about 70 per cent of hospital beds, the strain on health services is enormous, making it difficult to maintain critical services. For example, the proportion of children who had not received any vaccination increased from 12% in 1999 to 21% in 2006. UNICEF's existing Child Health Days seeks to address this. The current campaign seeks to immunise all children under five.

Access to safe water supply and basic sanitation continued to decline due to the general economic decline, eroded institutional and community capacity, persistent droughts and the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In rural areas, a third of the population does not have access to an improved drinking water source. There are currently 24% (17,000) of communal water supply facilities not functioning. As a result there is a daily shortage of safe water supply amongst approximately 2,500,000 people. Furthermore, Bulawayo city water supply reservoirs are currently 27% full (nine month supply as of 1 May 2007 due to the below average rainfall and insignificant inflows into the supply dams. The remaining reservoir water will not have adequate piping capacity to supply the city, resulting in constant water cuts and rationing. The most affected are the high-density residential areas, where the most vulnerable reside. Additionally, water and sewage systems in most urban areas have broken down due to age, excessive load, pump breakdowns and poor operation and maintenance. The breakdown of sewage systems has resulted in large volumes of raw sewage being discharged into natural watercourses, which ultimately feed into major urban water supply sources. In addition, Zimbabwe continues to experience cholera epidemics. The epidemics have been associated with poor hygiene, sanitation and shortage of safe drinking water supply in the affected districts. The situation is expected to deteriorate in the second half of 2007.

The education system in Zimbabwe has been eroded by a combination of deteriorating infrastructure, reduced public expenditure and high attrition of human resources. It is now experiencing low enrolment rates, declining attendance and completion rates, low transition rate to secondary, shortage of learning space and teaching and learning materials. Population movement in farms due to a government land reform programme has resulted in the establishment of nearly 628 satellite schools which lack basic infrastructure. Two million primary school age children attend school with a textbook pupil ratio of 1:8 and over 1.5 million 13-18 year olds at secondary school with textbook pupil ratios of 1:6. As a result performance rates have been declining. For instance, grade 7 pass-rates are 37%.