OCHA has been in Zimbabwe since 2006 to help reduce acute vulnerability through coordinated humanitarian action. OCHA Zimbabwe focuses on: coordinating the humanitarian response to human suffering caused by food insecurity, epidemics (HIV/AIDS, cholera, measles, etc.) and poor access to social services; preparedness and prevention efforts to reduce future vulnerability to natural disasters; and advocacy on behalf of vulnerable communities. OCHA also plays a key role in bridging humanitarian and development action.
Zimbabwe faces tremendous challenges. Cholera and malaria outbreaks continue to strain the country’s weak health system, and access to safe water and sanitation remains a problem. Zimbabwe has one of the world’s highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates (14%) but only a quarter of the virus-infected people receive anti-retroviral treatment.
Frequent droughts have strained food security and one third of children aged below 5 are chronically malnourished. The education sector suffers from severe shortages in essential supplies, high staff turnover and sporadic teachers’ strikes. Child protection and gender-based violence are issues of concern.
About 3 million Zimbabweans have left the country in the last decade. Half of these people are in South Africa, but they risk being sent home as South Africa’s special dispensation for Zimbabweans without immigration status was lifted in 2011.
The country’s economy has been weakened by more than a decade of decline and political challenges that keep the country in a fragile state and compromise the Government’s ability to respond to sudden emergencies.
According to the 2013/14 National Vulnerability Assessment Committee (NVAC) report, an estimated 2.2 million people – 25% of the rural population – were food insecure until April 2014. During the same period in 2013, 1.67 million were food insecure.
OCHA Zimbabwe has recently been downsized to a Humanitarian Advisory Team, and will be closing at end August 2015, following which Zimbabwe will be covered by the OCHA Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA), based in South Africa.