Lack of aid 'hurts Zimbabwe's children'

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The Independent Online

The economic isolation imposed on Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe by Western nations is having a catastrophic impact on children and other vulnerable groups, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), which called for an end to the "stark contrast" between aid given to Harare and other southern African capitals.

The economic isolation imposed on Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe by Western nations is having a catastrophic impact on children and other vulnerable groups, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), which called for an end to the "stark contrast" between aid given to Harare and other southern African capitals.

In an appeal to donor nations to step up the level of aid to Zimbabwe, the head of Unicef, Carol Bellamy, said that despite suffering the world's fourth worst rate of HIV/Aids and a 50 per cent increase in child mortality rates since 1990, vulnerable Zimbabweans have, in effect, been abandoned by Europe and America. European countries have all but discontinued government to government cooperation programmes with the Mugabe regime.

"It is not exactly breaking news that Zimbabwe is not the most favoured nation for donor assistance," Mrs Bellamy said. "Zimbabwe is receiving a mere fraction of the assistance being received by neighbouring countries." But she urged world leaders to "differentiate between the politics and people of Zimbabwe".

Unicef's spokesman in Zimbabwe, James Elder, told The Independent that, in respect of the Aids pandemic, average foreign donations to other southern African countries amounted to US$74 (£39) per patient. In Zambia, which has an HIV prevalence rate of 16.5 per cent, the government receives $187 per person. In Zimbabwe, where one in four is HIV positive, the equivalent figure is $4.

"This is a horrendous disparity when you have 100 children being born with HIV every day in Zimbabwe," Mr Elder said. "In fact, this is a wholly unacceptable disparity that no one can survive under."

In terms of overall aid, Zimbabwe receives a total of $14 per person in annual aid, compared with $68 for Namibia and $111 for Mozambique.

Mr Elder said it was preferable for countries critical of President Mugabe's regime to find other means of pressuring the Zimbabwe government, rather than "doing it through children" and other impoverished and vulnerable groups. Unicef is providing support and counselling to 100,000 orphans, most of whom lost their parents through the HIV pandemic, but the total number of orphans has reached 1.3 million. At least 3,000 people die of Aids in Zimbabwe each week.

"The global generosity towards tsunami victims was inspiring, but it has dried up for Zimbabwean children who are facing a deadly crisis every day," Mrs Bellamy said.

Hundreds of thousands of children have dropped out of school in the past year because they lack the money to pay fees and need time to scavenge for food. The sight of children lining main roads to pick corn droppings from passing lorries has become commonplace. Some children travel to South Africa for a life on the street, which often ends in prostitution, human rights groups say.

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