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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
Another side of UNICEF's support in Zimbabwe
Elder, UNICEF Zimbabwe
– As Zimbabwe faces growing isolation because of the controversial
policies of its government, UNICEF has been appealing to the international
community to look beyond the politics and focus on the children and people
of the country. Now more than ever – amid drought, grave economic troubles,
and political polarization – Zimbabweans need the support of the donor
This appeal has been
taken to heart by UNICEF staff members on the ground here. As they work
overtime on policies and programmes in health, nutrition, education and
child protection which will lessen the impact of the mass evictions and
demolitions that rocked Zimbabwe over the past few months, many of them
also are choosing to help on a personal level.
An informal poll around
the UNICEF office in Harare found that most employees – touched by the
plight of Zimbabwean children and inspired by the resolve of their families
– have opted to financially support children out of their own pocket,
in areas ranging from education to health care and career development.
"Empathy for those
we seek to serve is imperative in our work. Taking that emotion and translating
it into financial support is highly admirable," said UNICEF's Representative
in Zimbabwe, Dr. Festo Kavishe.
Edward is just one example of a Zimbabwean child benefiting from direct
support from a UNICEF staff member. Two months ago his home was destroyed
during the Zimbabwean government's 'restore order' campaign that left
more than 225,000 children homeless, forcing many of them to seek shelter
with their caregivers in 'transit camps' – temporary accommodation for
people without homes. The campaign also destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds
of thousands of parents and caregivers.
Together with his
grandmother, Edward, an orphan, was relocated to a transit camp called
Caledonia Farm where they spent six weeks sleeping rough outdoors. The
camp was much farther from Edward's school than his home had been.
In Zimbabwe, if a
child does not attend school for eight days, and if the school is not
notified, the child's enrolment is cancelled. After losing his home, Edward
did not go to school because it was so far from the camp. For the past
four years, Edward's grandmother – like many other grandparents across
this country – had managed against great odds to keep Edward healthy and
in school. But after she lost her home and source of income, Edward dropped
Reaching out to
give help and hope
Fortunately, on one
of many visits to Caledonia Farm, where UNICEF is providing emergency
assistance to those displaced by the evictions, a UNICEF staff member
met Edward and his grandmother and was moved by their plight. The staff
member's generosity has now helped Edward to re-enrol at school and pay
his tuition and book costs, and has also helped Edward's grandmother re-start
was immensely grateful," says the UNICEF staffer, who prefers to remain
anonymous. "But for me it is my privilege to be able to have such an impact
on a child's life. I couldn't afford to do this in my own country; here
I can. And so I don't expect thanks …rather I think it's an honour to
be in a position to help educate a child."
Thankfully, in response
to UNICEF's appeal for funding, over the past few months the people of
Australia, Germany, England, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland have
all followed suit, making substantial contributions to help with the crisis.
There remains much
to do in Zimbabwe. The country has the world's fourth highest prevalence
rate of HIV and has registered the fastest rise in child mortality in
the world. But as Edward's example attests, there is great hope when individuals
reach out to help children in need.
"I really like school,
and my teachers say I am good at it," says Edward. "So I was very upset
when I was no longer going. But now I am enrolled again and my granny
doesn't have to worry about fees. And all this because of a stranger …that
makes me very happy."
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