Zim remains vulnerable: UNDP

by Caroline Mvundura

HARARE - Zimbabwe remains in a state of "chronic vulnerability" and its humanitarian crisis could worsen despite formation of a unity government 16 months ago to tackle the country's long running socio-economic crisis, a UN agency said at the weekend.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said the myriad problems confronting the southern African country's impoverished population -- 70 percent of whom live below the breadline -- could worsen if the government and relief agencies do not act urgently to avert the threat.

The UNDP that has been at the forefront of efforts to mobilise support for the 12 million Zimbabweans said emergency assistance for the country remains critical even after recent positive political and economic developments that have restored a semblance of stability in the country.

"Despite these positive changes the humanitarian needs remain acute. The country is still in a state of chronic vulnerability and its ongoing humanitarian crisis could worsen if support to humanitarian and recovery actions is not maintained," the UNDP said in a statement.

"The socio-economic collapse during the past decade eroded these systems to a degree at which they are unable at most times to provide basic services such as health, water, sanitation and education," it said.

After a decade of political crisis and economic turmoil in which inflation reached more than 200 million percent and the local currency collapsed, Zimbabwe's economy appeared to turn a corner last year, shaking off recession to register growth after the coalition government implemented measures, including the adoption of multiple currencies that doused hyperinflation.

The economy, which the government says will this year grow by 5.4 percent, expanded by 5.1 percent last year following the new measures and policies introduced by the unity government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

However, analysts and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) say Zimbabwe's economic recovery remains fragile because of the government's heavy dependence on imports at a time the country does not have access to balance-of-payments support.

The IMF and other multi-lateral lenders have refused to provide fresh loans until Harare clears outstanding debts, while rich Western nations are also reluctant to fund the administration, insisting it first steps up the pace of democratic reforms, do more to uphold human rights and the rule of law. - ZimOnline.