Skip to main content

Let Zimbabwe's children bloom

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Africa, Education

My first year in Zimbabwe has flown by and spring is once more in the air as the jacaranda trees lining Harare's streets burst into bloom once more, in a riot of regal purple. The beauty of the garden suburbs is deceptive. Despite the steady economic recovery of the past 24 months, the levels of poverty are still very high and disproportionately affect the million-plus children estimated to have lost one or more parents to the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Jacaranda in bloom

Almost exactly a year ago I witnessed the launch of a major textbook distribution programme that has now successfully completed its distribution of around 13 million books to all the estimated 2.6 million primary school students. A similar exercise is now underway to provide secondary textbooks using cost savings from the initial phase.

The Prime Minister at the launch

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend another major programme launch, efficiently organised once more by UNICEF and again presided over by the Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai. We had gathered at the National Art Gallery where there was a striking collection of Shona and Ndebele cultural sculpture and a professional photographic display of today's Zimbabwean children – at work, at play and at school. Entertainment came courtesy of UNICEF's regional goodwill ambassador and musical superstar Oliver 'Tuku'  Mtukudzi, who was also joined in voice by the disabled singing sensation Prudence Mabhena.

Despite the lovely atmosphere the stark facts and figures kept everyone reminded of the purpose:  1 in 3 children suffers chronic malnutrition and  700,000 children live in extreme poverty – they suffer from hunger for most of the year, become physically weak, and are much more likely to die from infections that other people survive. Horrendous levels of violence and abuse are also suffered by children in Zimbabwe, especially girls (60% of reported rape survivors are children).

Holding the future

The children's representative present reminded the Prime Minister and other senior distinguished guests of the need for action: to protect, love and cherish children, allowing all to have access to food to eat, schooling and medical services when needed.

The government's national action plan to support orphans and vulnerable children for the coming five years was launched, supported by the Child Protection Fund (CPF).  The UK (DFID) together with the Netherlands, Sweden and the Delegation of the European Union to Zimbabwe are supporting specific interventions through CPF, under UNICEF management.

In addition to BEAM school fee support for orphans, the CPF will scale up regular cash payments to 80,000 of the poorest households in the country, benefitting 300,000 of the most vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. Just last March I met the first grandparents to benefit, who were singlehandedly raising their dead children's children. By the end of this year, this pilot in one locality will have already scaled up to ten districts spread across all the provinces of Harare.

The words of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, quoted at the launch, are well worth repeating:  "There is no duty more important than ensuring that children's rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want, and that they can grow up in peace."

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by James posted on

    It's amazing the changes you so graphically describe here relating to direct support children (in education) are receiving. This is in sharp contrast to the pictures we had in mind a few months back (ref. BBC documentary "Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children"). Your report gives some semblance of assurances that change is gradually taking place in Zim, and development aid is bringing change where it counts most.
    Here in UK, the atmosphere is quite charged and sentiments range from callous indifference to aid to outrageous calls to discontinue aid altogether. May be there is a point, esp. when aid becomes linked to dubious military and international security activity which has produced minimal positive result against the heavy spend.
    But, where children welfare and education are concerned, I would like to see universal consensus of a world which shares the burden of one another, more and more often. And your programmes are doing just that, by keeping alive the hopes and futures of many a condemned child. Please keep those positive reports flowing to no 10 Downing street, they need them to allay the rising and often misinformed public annoyance.
    After all, there is evidence that countries in the league of Zimbabwe, Somalia and DRC are experiencing a new form of existential threat requiring a new approach at humanitarian intervention and social reconstruction which current international human rights regime law (1951 UNCHR) does not provide, it's simply too old or failed to adequately provide for protection of human rights and dignity for vulnerable people outside the "acceptable" standard definition of internally displaced people or what international protection entails. It would be a global shame, especially to the West, if the only remedies to alleviate the suffering of children facing an existential threat in broken states and economies at this magnitude is to leave them to die inevitable or to join the throngs of forced mass and survival migration where they are exposed to more danger through robberies, traffickers and rape.
    Once more, DFID, you remain key to rebuilding lives and restoring dignity to recovering Zimbabwe (and indeed other failed states) at a time when national budgets are getting tighter.
    As a Zimbabwean living in the diaspora, I would like to commend you for this effort and remain hopeful that this report will form part of an evidence base for the continuity of development aid to specific causes like this.

  2. Comment by Farai Katiro posted on

    I also attended this encouraging launch. Surely children need a better treatment. They are our heritage and future leaders. My heart goes out to them. Thanks UNICEF for your ocnsideration.

  3. Comment by Godfrey Chiwanza posted on

    Remembering and caring for valnerable children is part of the fulfilment of the Great Commission. Be reminded that we are what we are today because someone cared enough when we were still children.

    • Replies to Godfrey Chiwanza>

      Comment by Hubert posted on

      Hi Godfrey
      I hope you remember Hubert Charles at Mindolo
      Do get in touch