The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe in 2005 was characterised by deepening and widening vulnerability, due to factors including food insecurity, HIV and AIDS, weakened capacity for the delivery of basic services, economic decline and a changing social fabric. At least three million people required food assistance and, while the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate among adults dropped from 24.6 percent in 2002 to 21.3 percent in 2005, the disease continued to cause the death of 3,000 Zimbabweans per week. The economic situation, with high inflation, shortages in foreign exchange and negative growth, added to the vulnerability of the population. The humanitarian situation was compounded by Operation Restore Order/Murambatsvina, which caused an estimated 650,000 to 700,000 people to lose their homes, their livelihoods, or both.
In 2005, OCHA's work in Zimbabwe took place in the context of the Humanitarian Support Team (HST) under the overall leadership of the RC/HC. OCHA provided one international staff member and one national staff member to the HST throughout the year, but also sent a surge capacity team of three international staff that helped galvanise support for humanitarian coordination following Operation Restore Order/Murambatsvina. In order to serve the humanitarian community and all stakeholders more effectively, the United Nations decided to replace the HST with a regular OCHA Field Office, which was opened on 1 January 2006.
- Promote a regular dialogue between the UN, other humanitarian partners and the government by organising regular joint coordination fora and providing relevant analysis on humanitarian and transitional needs
- Advocate for recognition and support of the humanitarian needs and rights of highly vulnerable groups through strengthening and consolidating existing humanitarian coordination mechanisms
- Improve the quality and effectiveness of vulnerability assessment committees (VAC) and undertake consultative process aimed at developing an exit strategy for humanitarian programming in favour of activities promoting sustainable solutions
- Improve access to timely and comprehensive humanitarian information
- Work to ensure a smooth transition from humanitarian to recovery programming
OCHA and the HST played an important role in a cross-section of coordination issues that included: support to the RC/HC and IASC members in consultations with the government; more systematic sectoral coordination and collaboration through working groups; facilitation of IASC meetings; and facilitation and production of the UN Interim Response Plan and the UN Common Response Plan to Operation Restore Order/Murambatsvina.
The year's work also involved facilitation of the visit by UN Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka and that of Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland; participation in vulnerability assessments and other surveys; organisation of training in disaster preparedness and planning; production of the 2006 Zimbabwe CAP; and inter-agency contingency planning.
OCHA/HST facilitated and produced the 2005 Humanitarian Framework and the 2006 Zimbabwe CAP, through consultative processes in which a common analysis of the humanitarian situation was developed. This was the first CAP issued for Zimbabwe since 2003, despite persistent humanitarian needs, and the process served to galvanise joint planning, information sharing and cooperation among local IASC members.
OCHA/HST also instituted bi-weekly meetings of the IASC country team, and monthly meetings of the RC/HC with NGOs, the government and donors. Some of these consultations had taken place on an ad hoc basis in the past, but were instituted on a regular basis in the last quarter of 2005, with a positive impact on the flow of information and the ability of humanitarian actors to jointly discuss issues on the humanitarian agenda.
OCHA/HST also coordinated regular Coordination and Humanitarian Guidance Group meetings, which analysed the humanitarian space and operational difficulties of NGOs and developed an access matrix. The group also monitored issues of protection, humanitarian principles and the standards for care provided to the most vulnerable.
The information management part of OCHA/HST's work increased in quality as well as quantity in 2005, and served to promote information sharing and coordination. Activities included: building and expanding a working network of contacts from UN Agencies, NGOs and government sectors; the production of coordination documents such as situation reports and WWW matrices; and, support for the VAC process in the gathering and dissemination of data.
OCHA/HST was also instrumental in providing the humanitarian community with GIS services, such as spatial mapping and analysis, scanning and conversion of analogue to digital data for large maps, and GIS and GPS training. The office offered support in data analysis and mapping to humanitarian working groups and individual government institutions, NGOs, UN Agencies and international organisations.
Most of the office's key objectives for 2005 were met, except the development of a humanitarian exit strategy, due to the severe increase in food insecurity and the additional humanitarian needs and vulnerabilities created by Operation Restore Order/ Murambatsvina.
As a result of active efforts by the Humanitarian Coordinator and the IASC Country Team, including OCHA, over 30 UN Agencies and NGOs participated actively in and submitted projects through the CAP.
Feedback from partners indicated that the new humanitarian coordination mechanism was useful in promoting the sharing of information and joint strategy-setting for difficult issues on the humanitarian agenda, including the response to Operation Restore Order/Murambatsvina.
OCHA's value-added to the ZIMVAC included policy and technical assistance, including on GIS services and logistics. This work helped ensure that ZIMVAC was considered a key tool by all actors, including the government, to survey the humanitarian situation and plan response. While joint assessments such as ZIMVAC were useful in building a common analysis of the humanitarian situation, sustaining such a joint understanding within the humanitarian community remained a real challenge throughout 2005.
Products such as the humanitarian situation report and the WWW matrix helped all humanitarian actors stay abreast of the humanitarian situation and response, particularly following Operation Restore Order/Murambatsvina. However, ensuring the regular flow of information remained a constant challenge, given the heavily politicised context. OCHA therefore considered it necessary to establish a full-fledged field office in 2006.
While issues of access and protection remained sensitive in the Zimbabwean context, the work of the Humanitarian Guidance Working Group, coordinated by OCHA, served to inform advocacy efforts at local and headquarters levels.