Australia to Boost Aid for Zimbabwe
Australia has ended its ban on non-humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe, being the first Western country to give direct support to Zimbabwe's new administration. Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has stated that the dire situation in Zimbabwe calls for the urgent expansion of Australian assistance “to support efforts by Prime Minister…
Australia has ended its ban on non-humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe, being the first Western country to give direct support to Zimbabwe’s new administration. Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has stated that the dire situation in Zimbabwe calls for the urgent expansion of Australian assistance “to support efforts by Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his ministers to bring sustainable and long-term improvements to the lives of Zimbabweans.”
Australia will give A$10 million ($6.4 million) in aid to Zimbabwe, of which A$5 million will be spent on water sanitation and infrastructure. According to the World Health Organization, water-borne cholera has already killed 4,000 Zimbabweans, while 89,000 people in the country have the disease. Clean water would help curb the cholera epidemic currently plaguing the African country.
The other A$5 million will be directed at helping the health service sector in Zimbabwe. The money will be used to make payments to health workers and nursing staff, who have been struggling due to “the country’s economic and social collapse and the unreliability of salary payments from the Mugabe government”, stated Smith. The aid would allow health workers to return to work and resume basic medical services around the country.
In an effort to minimize corruption and risks, the money allocated to water sanitation and infrastructure will be spent through UNICEF. UNICEF will deal directly with local authorities, as the Zimbabwean government has taken control of the responsibility for the country’s water infrastructure.
Similarly, the money allocated towards reviving Zimbabwe’s failed health service sector, will be spent through the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID). The DFID will not only decrease risks of corruption, but would also facilitate the implementation of the aid, as the organization already has a project aimed at helping health workers with additional payments.
Previous non-humanitarian aid has been rejected by Australia due to the country’s lack of acceptance of Mugabe’s authoritarian regime in the country. Australia has repeatedly called for “Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to step down, imposing financial sanctions and travel bans on members of his regime, prohibiting arms sales and cutting defense and ministerial links,” said Smith. While Australia realizes the risks regarding the current political fragility in the African country, the new unity government in Zimbabwe provides a channel for increased collaboration between the two countries. Smith added that, “provided we take the appropriate balance of circumstances into account, we can render Zimbabwe development assistance and help to build their capacity”.
Zimbabwe is currently suffering from a record hyperinflation, an extremely high unemployment rate of 94% and a severe shortage of food and fuel. The political deadlock and the prolonged economic crisis has crumbled Zimbabwe’s infrastructure and health care system, making it impossible to stop the spreading of the cholera epidemic. Zimbabwe will need a lot of foreign aid, particularly in the areas of education, agriculture and health, as it tries to rebuild its currently collapsing economy.
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