It’s been 2 months since I was last in Zimbabwe. A lot has changed since then. The financial crisis here in the UK has started to have a real impact in some people’s lives– hardly a day goes by without another announcement of job cuts being made in the news – over 102,000 jobs were cut in the past 4 months to February 26th, according to one newspaper. Any pensioners relying on their savings or people approaching retirement with pensions invested in the stock market have seen their income or value drop significantly. So the number of people not earning a wage or with a drop in income is rising in the UK and for some even their homes are now being repossessed.
In Zimbabwe though, where I will be going, things are worse. Many people haven’t enough to eat, or they are sick and dying, or homeless. The cholera epidemic which started in August is continuing – 4,000 people have now died from this easily treatable disease and many more have got sick from it. That’s 2,500 people who have died since my last visit ended just before Christmas. The “hunger gap” - the time between when you’ve eaten all last season’s food and you’re waiting for your crops in the field to (hopefully) ripen - is at its most acute now. That’s particularly hard when your last harvest was a poor one, because of erratic rainfall… And there is a group of particularly badly off people, who’ve been forced to flee their homes and communities because of violence for having voted the wrong way, or having simply watched their homes being bulldozed.
Then as now, the reason for my visit is humanitarian. “Humanitarian” is a word which is commonly used in the media, but what does it mean? The idea is that innocent children, women and men, caught up by war or disaster should be helped regardless of who they are, just because they are human.
That’s what DFID is trying to do in Zimbabwe, and I’ll let you know how I’m getting on after I arrive.