Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Humanitarian Situation Report 28 Apr 2003

GoZ announces new minimum wage levels
The Tripartite Negotiating Forum, composed of representatives from both government and business, announced agreement on a new set of minimum wage levels.

The minimum for farmworkers is to be ZW$23,070/mo, and for horticulture and agro-industry sectors it is to be ZW$42,168/mo. In the industry and commerce and mining sectors, the minimum wage is to be set at ZW$47,696/mo.

The decision to raise minimum wage levels is certainly welcomed as an indication that there is recognition that serious policy issues need to be addressed if the frail national economy is to be brought back up to a level that will adequately serve the Zimbabwe people.

Zimbabwe's workers face serious economic challenges. There is major inflation (228% in March) and coping with the difficulties this presents to the average person is a daunting task.

Fuel price increases

The Minister of Energy and Power Development announced a significant increase in fuel prices on 15 April. This is the second price increase in less than two months. The earlier price hike of almost 100% came into effect at the end of February. The new prices of ZW$450/litre for leaded petrol (210% increase) and ZW$200/litre for diesel (160% increase) came into effect on 16 April. Although this still leaves Zimbabwe fuel prices below international levels and a new increase might be required very soon, public reaction to the new prices - on top of the already existing problem of acute shortage - is definitely negative.

Load-shedding further batters economy

In April the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) introduced its power load-shedding programme. ZESA stated, "Due to scarcity of foreign currency, however, the importation of power and energy from the external sources have been reduced to levels that necessitate load-shedding at times of peak demand. Consequently, therefore, electricity supplies to our customers may be interrupted daily during periods 06.00hrs to 11.30hrs and 17.00hrs to 20.00hrs." ZESA also indicated that lack of capacity within the country to generate power contributed to the problem. The recent breakdown at the Wankie Colliery Company, Zimbabwe's sole coal producer, led to a power blackout that affected Hwange and much of Matebeleland North due to lack of coal supplies to ZESA's main power generating plant, the Hwange Power Station.

Agricultural prices increased, but production still uncertain

The new marketing season opened on 1 April, with increases of producer prices to ZW$130,000/MT for maize, sorghum and millet, and ZW$150,000/MT for wheat. These price levels, although necessary, remain somewhat controversial as the retail prices have been left low which will put a considerable financial burden on GMB (Maize and wheat will continue to be sold to millers at ZW$9,600/MT and ZW$29,500/MT respectively. This situation will create deficits for GMB of ZW$120,400/MT and ZW$120,500/MT for maize and wheat respectively).

Initially some grains were reported as being delivered, but subsequently this trickle decreased as producers found that illegal trading continued to be an alternative market. Such traders offered better prices (ZW$200,000/MT - ZW$300,000/MT) and better conditions (immediate cash and free grain transport). However, the full season impact of this situation is still not clear.

At present there is no clear indication of what production can be expected this year. Several forecasts have been received, but have varied widely and can provide no clear guideline to the result of the current maize harvest.

The lack of clear indications have concerned planners, both national and international. GoZ have indicated publicly that they will be making an appeal to the international community for further aid support through the forthcoming season, and the UN Co-ordinator expects to receive a statement on the extent and shape of such an appeal soon. Donors are in the process of revising annual commitments, but local representatives have indicated that they are unable to table a firm plan without some indications of GoZ requirements. The fear is that if the appeal and commitments are not crafted soon, the international concerns in the mid-east and Horn of Africa will absorb the bulk of available aid funding from donor sources.

It is expected that the reports of the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) and the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) will contribute to the clarification of national production and vulnerability levels.

A further difficulty to planning is the lack of substantive information on nutritional needs in the country. The national nutrition survey, completed 6 weeks ago, should be released by the Ministry of Health & Child Welfare soon.

ZimVAC in process; FAO/WFP CFSAM begins

The ZimVAC deployed teams of GoZ, UN and NGO officers throughout the country from 5 April to 19 April. The teams gathered data, using household surveys and community focus groups, on food supplies and availability, production, markets and prices, income and expenditure education, health (including HIV/AIDS), water and sanitation, and coping strategies. The information gathered is in the process of being analysed. A draft report is expected by 7 May.

On 22 April the FAO/WFP delegation arrived in the country for the Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM). The mission members are to lead three teams of agricultural and food supply specialists from UN agencies and NGOs which will be in the main production areas of the country from 27 April to 6 May assessing crop production and national food supply availability. The report from the mission is expected by mid May and will further clarify the food security situation for the 2003/4 consumption year.

Food distribution update

WFP indicated that it distributed 28,075MT of food between 1-17 April, reaching 2.5 million Zimbabweans. Food distributions of over 50,000MT to 4.6 million people are expected to be completed on schedule by the end of the month. Complementary food aid pipelines such as those implemented by C-SAFE, Save the Children (UK) and German Agro-Action met the needs of an additional 900,000 beneficiaries in April.

WFP reports that it plans to reduce the level of relief food distributions in May, since it is harvest season in most parts of the country. However, there is still concern over the situation in Matebeleland and parts of Masvingo Province, where preliminary surveys indicate a scant harvest.

Over the past agricultural season, WFP has distributed 272,000MT of food aid in 48 districts.

Findings from UN inter-agency mission to Chimanimani District

As a follow up to reports of displacement of farm families in Chimanimani District, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator, in co-operation with the Provincial Governor of Manicaland, sent a mission to review the situation and identify immediate humanitarian assistance needs.

It was found that there were 319 families that had been displaced and were living at the Chimanimani Village bus terminal. The Zimbabwe Red Cross, in collaboration with ICRC, provided for immediate relief, giving blankets and food for about 15 days. The Governor responded by ordering that the people be allowed to return to the farm from which they came, but the farmworkers were reluctant to accept this alternative as long as there was a proposed new farm management.

The eventual outcome depended on a combination of on-going legal proceedings and the attitude of the peoples involved. At this time the farmworkers have returned to the farm and the ownership issue has been resolved, although there remain some provisional settlers in parts of the farm that have not left as instructed by the High Court order.

It was recommended that some form of humanitarian assistance be given, but that this be ascertained by a follow-up mission in early May.

Matebeleland and Midlands assessments

As reported in previous issues of the Situation Report, UN inter-agency teams carried out rapid assessment of the potential gaps in the present response, and of the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Matebeleland South and Midlands Provinces. These reports have been completed and it was found that both areas continue to face serious problems of food security.

Drought and disease have taken a large toll on the livestock resources, which represent the main livelihood system in this area. It is estimated that between 20,000 to 35,000 head of cattle died in the last two years of drought, and another 6,000 head are at immediate risk. This level of livestock loss has implications for the areas recovery prospects as well, since the draught power capacity of most communities has been depleted. Of particular concern was the sharp decline in water availability for both humans and livestock, and the decline in health service availability.

Given the high level of need indicated in the reports, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator has proposed that these reports be officially presented to the provincial administration through a one day workshop, which would bring together the relevant government, UN agency and NGO officials to create project proposal drafts based on the identified needs. Discussions are currently underway with government regarding the details of these workshops. They are expected to take place in mid-May.

Water & Sanitation programme faces difficulties

Water and Sanitation (WatSan) activities have been unable to proceed adequately due to the severe shortages of cement and fuel availability. The UNICEF-led WatSan Working Group met on 4 April to consider these issues. The following proposals were made to the National Co-ordination Unit:

  • Purchase cement centrally from the manufacturing companies and distribute to implementing partners.

  • Purchase cement in bulk in foreign currency.

  • Use the District Development Fund facility to purchase fuel in foreign currency on behalf of the Rural District Councils and other implementing partners.

SARS preparedness

The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair starts on 29 April and because of the large numbers of foreign exhibitors and business people coming into the country, the task Force on SARS is on high alert at Harare International Airport and other ports of entry. As part of the current surveillance efforts the Task Force is sending a team to Bulawayo for surveillance and monitoring.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a condition that was first reported by China's Ministry of Health to WHO in February 2003. Subsequently similar reports were received from a number of countries. Although China remains the worst affected so far, the condition has now spread to 26 countries in five continents. Of the 26 countries, only in six is there evidence of local transmission. For the rest of the countries, the cases have been imported following exposure or contact with cases elsewhere.

In Africa, only South Africa has reported one case affecting a 62-year-old businessman in Pretoria. The patient had returned on 27 March from a trip to China, Thailand and Australia and became ill on 3 April. He is still in hospital undergoing treatment.

Because of the rapid global spread of this disease, countries have been encouraged to strengthen their preparedness and response. In Zimbabwe, a taskforce has been established to strengthen preparedness at national as well as provincial levels with special emphasis on major areas of entry. National guidelines have been developed and are in use at all ports of entry and major health institutions. WHO Zimbabwe is facilitating the procurement of emergency stocks to support response.

Malaria situation worsens

WHO has placed Zimbabwe "on state of very high alert" for risk of increased malaria transmission and possible malaria outbreaks following cyclone induced rains that created favourable conditions for mosquito breeding.

In the past, low-lying areas such as Zambezi Valley, Chiredzi, Mwenezi and Muzarabani have been most affected by malaria outbreaks. The decline of available health services and lack of infrastructure in some newly resettled areas is particularly of concern.

WHO feels that the malaria situation in the country continues to worsen. However, informal reports indicate that the outbreak in Gokwe is on the decline, although the case fatality rate remains high. The satellite health facilities are still operational.

WHO has secured some anti-malarial drugs but continues to mobilise more resources to assist in the malaria epidemic through its partners - UNDP, International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and the Global Fund to fight Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).

Africa Malaria Day Commemoration

The Africa Malaria Day (AMD) 2003 theme and slogan is as follows:

  • Theme: Insecticides treated nets and effective malaria treatment for pregnant women and young children by 2005.

  • Slogan: Roll Back Malaria, Protect Women and Children.

The Africa Malaria Week was successfully launched in Beitbridge and Victoria Falls. The launch of this activity was done under the umbrella of SADC - Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The event proceeded through Zambia, Malawi and finally ended in Tanzania where the festivities were graced by the SADC Ministers of Health. Resolutions from the ministers are expected and will be incorporated in the next issue of the SitRep.

Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI)

UNICEF has carried out an EPI review from 1 April to 12 April in three randomly selected provinces (Mashonaland West, Masvingo and Bulawayo City). The objectives of the review were to evaluate the achievements and constraints facing the national EPI programme and identify strategies for ensuring effective vaccine-preventable disease control.

Cuban medical co-operation in Zimbabwe

Cuba has provided humanitarian medical assistance to Zimbabwe since March 2000. The basis of the programme, called, the "Integral Health Programme", is:

  • Free medical practitioners (the receiving country pays the air transport and subsistence allowances for food and other minor expenses)

  • Family doctors, specialized in primary health care, form the backbone of this resource. Secondary health care services are also provided.

  • The health practitioners work in remote rural areas where the presence of other physicians is minimal or non-existant. They remain in the country for two years, with annual leave to Cuba after the first 11 months.

The first group of 108 health practitioners arrived in Zimbabwe on 20 March 2000, and stayed until February 2002. 116 new health practitioners replaced these returning professionals. In February 2003, an additional 74 medical professionals were placed in Zimbabwe.

During the period March 2000 to February 2002, the Cuban health practitioners worked in 39 hospitals (5 national, 7 provincial and 27 district or missionary hospitals) in eight provinces of Zimbabwe, providing direct medical assistance to over 6 million people.

The current medical practitioners are serving in 35 hospitals (6 national, 7 provincial and 22 district or missionary). The current group of practitioners also contains a psychiatrist and a family doctor trained in psychiatry. The new programme hopes to expand their coverage to at least 20 new district hospitals during the year.

HIV/AIDS

It is estimated that between 30% and 35% of people living in the Southern African Development Community are HIV-positive. This level of prevalence raises serious challenges to the national governments: as more demands are being made on government services, such as health and welfare - particularly AIDS orphans who are a rapidly growing group in society - the tax base to finance these services is shrinking. The epidemic affects predominately the economically active population, and it is estimated that all SADC countries will face shrinking labour forces.

There is concern that the HIV/AIDS epidemic even threatens democracy and governance through depletion of the voter rolls and loss of crucial electoral skills. Such was proposed in research done by the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA). A report on this issue was presented at the conference hosted jointly by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa's governance and AIDS project and the United Nations Development Programme's Southern African HIV and development project.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's major response to the AIDS epidemic has been creation of the National AIDS Council (NAC). NAC has continued to provide financial support (now ZW$10 million per district) for HIV/AIDS and humanitarian emergency programmes. A special allocation of additional ZW$5 million was given to NAC structures at decentralized levels for the Home Based Programme, Nutritional Support and Orphan Care. Increased programming has been provided in the Harare urban area. UNAIDS provides support to NAC as the most appropriate means of co-ordinating national response to the epidemic.

Several NGOs have put in place programmes to address the AIDS aspects of the current humanitarian emergency. These include international NGOs like the Red Cross, Save the Children (UK), Catholic Relief Services, and World Vision, among others. Many local churches and Community Based Organizations are also actively involved, but lack resources.

The NAC system faces some serious constraints:

  • At the district level there are administrative and logistical problems that are highly prejudicial to access of food and funds.

  • Capacity to absorb funds is low. Human resources with technical expertise are not available. Volunteer commitment is weak.

  • High turnover of staff in NAC at all levels, exacerbated by the high inflationary economic environment, results in loss of institutional memory.

UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator / RRU

Information Reference of Humanitarian Assistance Meetings May 2003

NB: Meetings are by invitation only. Please contact the focal point person if you wish informationabout any of these meetings.

8th May '03 Nutrition WG: Contact: Thelma Bamhare, UNICEF.
12th May '03 Friends of Humanitarian Co-ordinator: contact Annika Rosing, UNDP.
29th-30th May '03 CAP Workshop:Contact: Annika Rosing, UNDP.

NGOs, International Organizations, Donors or private sector groups are welcome to submit articles to the Humanitarian Situation Report.

Articles for publication in the next report should be submitted by 7 May to RRU at the email address: rru.zw@undp.org