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‘Zim humanitarian situation still fragile’

THE United Nations has warned that Zimbabwe’s humanitarian situation is still fragile and could explode if funds are not provided to contain the situation.

In its October monthly report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says there is need for “a massive financial investment” to control the situation before it becomes a humanitarian emergency.
“Unless these are addressed, the country will remain vulnerable while its ability to respond to shocks remains compromised,” read the report released this week.
The report cited “the unexpected influenza A H1N1 outbreak in October, coupled with the ongoing cholera and measles epidemics reflect the fragile humanitarian situation” as indicators that the situation could explode.
An outbreak of the influenza A H1N1 was recorded in Tsholotsho District in Matabeleland North province on October 15.
Over 2 600 cases had been reported by end of the week ending October 17. The outbreak affected mostly children particularly of school going-age and those under five years.
The report said this, and the reported measles and cholera outbreaks, exposed the fragility of the health sector.
“Ordinarily, such outbreaks would be easily controlled in a functional health system. The continued need for agricultural input support, food aid and income- generating projects also testify of the same,” said the report.
It said efforts to contain the situation were being hampered by limited inflows of both humanitarian and development funding.
“Health partners, continue to support government efforts to contain disease outbreaks. However, this requires a massive financial investment, particularly in strengthening the infrastructure,” reads the report. “Zimbabwe’s chronic vulnerability is largely a consequence of the degradation in social services infrastructure.”
OCHA said there was a cholera outbreak in the last two months in Manicaland, with Buhera, Chimanimani, Chipinge, Mutare urban and Nyanga districts reporting cases.
“By end of October 2010, a cumulative 20 deaths and 774 cumulative cholera cases, including 91 laboratory confirmed cases, had been reported in an outbreak that started in February 2010 and has spread to 18 of the country’s 62 districts,” the report reads.
OCHA said reports of measles were still being received in parts of the country, however, at a lower rate than in the period before the nationwide immunisation campaign from May to June 2.
“In the period July 5 to October 17 altogether 114 deaths and 1 128 suspected measles cases were reported, of which 69 were confirmed. Twelve districts reported confirmed measles outbreaks, although there were no confirmed outbreaks in the last 30 days. The attack rate of suspected cases is nine per 100 000,” reads the report.
Food shortages are also compounding the situation. According to the report, World Food Programme’s monthly Food Security Monitoring System indicated that the majority of households in rural wards had exhausted their harvested stocks by the end of September and beginning of October 2010.
“Although maize meal is readily available in urban areas, availability in rural areas is low due to liquidity challenges and preference for maize grain,” the report  added. –– Staff Writer.

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