Zimbabwe: humanitarian situation still dire, says priest



A Zimbabwean Catholic priest has said that Zimbabwe is facing the worst humanitarian crisis since independence.

The  priest, who cannot be named for security reasons, told the Catholic aid agency CAFOD that despite supermarket shelves heaving with food imported from South Africa, the majority of Zimbabweans are still in need of food and basic medicines.

“Be careful of false impressions. The crisis is still here. Nothing much has changed for the rural poor. Whilst the supermarket shelves are bursting with food, families continue to struggle to put food into the mouths of their children, the priest told CAFOD's Africa press officer Nana Anto-Awuakye during a recent visit to Zimbabwe.

"Last year things were very difficult, the Zimbabwean dollar could not buy you a bread bun and now with the introduction of the US dollar families in rural areas do not have access to this currency, as it circulates amongst the very few. So still people are struggling to buy basic household items," the priest said.

CAFOD's partner Caritas Zimbabwe is ramping up its emergency programmes alongside international non-governmental organizations in a coordinated programme providing food to vulnerable communities, education and health institutions.

According to Ekklesia, Caritas Zimbabwe is also involved in promoting public health and hygiene education whilst working with communities to repair water pumps and build pit latrines in light of the devastating cholera last year which is still a public health issue.

However, there is a shortfall in their funds. In January 2009, Caritas Zimbabwe launched an emergency appeal for USD 7.7 million (£5 million) for all eight Catholic dioceses. Currently only one third of the money has been raised, limiting their ability to reach the most vulnerable in urgent need of food.

Battered by years of political and economic upheaval, the country's economy is in shreds. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that half the population of 12 million people will be reliant on food aid.

Hospitals are still struggling to provide basic drugs such as aspirin and antibiotics and patients are asked to bring their own food, makeshift bandages and intravenous drip tubes. These medical supplies are unaffordable to the average Zimbabwean and completely out of the reach of the poorest people living in remote rural areas.

Source: CISA

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