UNICEF says children hit hardest by Zimbabwe's economic problems

Harare, Geneva 26 June - The United Nations Children's Fund in Zimbabwe says it is "deeply concerned" about increased suffering for everyday Zimbabweans, particularly children, as a result of grave economic problems facing the Southern African country.

With official inflation at 4,530%, the cost of essential goods and services is increasing every day, in some cases doubling. The country is facing critical shortages of drugs, key health and education staff, and has entered another drought year.

"Everyday in Zimbabwe the basic elements required for a healthy and happy childhood -affordable education, three meals per day, clothing and shelter - are being pushed out of reach for people," said UNICEF's Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr. Festo Kavishe.

Last month Zimbabwe's Central Statistics Office said the basic 'family food basket' for a family of six cost US$100. However, a teacher's salary equates to just US$18 per month, and that of a nurse $20. Unemployment is reported at more than 70%.

And yet, amid these colossal hardships, significant accomplishments have been made. Ninety-five per cent of orphans continue to be absorbed by the extended family, while last year Zimbabwe became the first country in Southern Africa to record a fall in the HIV rate (from 24.6% to 20%).

Working across Zimbabwe in areas of child protection, education, health & nutrition, water & sanitation, and HIV prevention, UNICEF says Zimbabweans have been nothing short of miraculous in attempting to cope with the current economic crisis and in caring for their children.

"This country is full of heroes," said UNICEF's Kavishe. "The grandmothers who work 18 hour days to keep half a dozen orphaned grandchildren in school, the volunteers who devote their time to caring for those racked with pain from AIDS but without drugs, the millions of Zimbabweans who just refuse to give up hope.

"However, we have entered a new phase of hardship. These are people who forgo bread for books so as to keep their children in school, who are uncomfortable with putting their hand out, but their options are exhausted."

In the past two years, with generous funding from the UK's Department for International Development, the European Commission, and the Governments of Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia, UNICEF has increased the number of orphans it reaches from 50,000 to 500,000. However, critical programmes in HIV-prevention, health, nutrition and education remain less than 20% funded.

"Resources are needed so the gains painstakingly achieved for children can be protected and more progress can be made," said UNICEF's Kavishe. "We know that we can have a major impact on the well-being of children and women by targeting our support directly to families and communities. But those families have cut from three meals a day to two, and now from two to one-and-a-half. Without support what does a family do from there?"


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/enquiries please contact:

James Elder, UNICEF Zimbabwe Chief of Communications, 263 912 276 120, jelder@unicef.org

Patrick McCormick, UNICEF Media New York, 1 212 326 7426, pmccormick@unicef.org

Veronique Taveau, UNICEF Media Geneva, +41 22 909 5716, vtaveau@unicef.org