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Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in Zimbabwe
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
March, 2006

Since the end of 1999 the economic and political situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated dramatically. In January 2001 the Swedish government decided to cut back drastically on development cooperation in response to serious human rights violations as well as the government’s illegal activities and its blatant disrespect for democracy. Development cooperation with the state was terminated completely and today all aid is provided through NGOs and UN bodies.

Why does Sweden provide support to Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe is a very poor country and requires a great deal of support from the rest of the world. The presidential election of March 2002, which was won by sitting president Robert Mugabe, was heavily criticised by international teams of observers, who witnessed ballot rigging as well as threatening and violent behaviour towards the opposition MDC party and its supporters. The parliamentary election of March 2005, which was won by the ruling ZANU-PF party, was also condemned by international observers and human rights organisations.

The 2005 election was a calmer affair than usual, although the violence has grown more subtle. The police have acquired greater powers of control and torture and unlawful arrests are common. The rule of law and freedom of expression are severely restricted and the public is terrified into silence.

Under the land reforms, white landowners and farmers have been violently evicted from their properties. This has led to a decrease in agricultural production, which, when compounded with drought, has brought the threat of famine to millions of people for 2005 and 2006. Health services have deteriorated and there is a serious lack of doctors and nurses, medicines and other necessary medical supplies. The recent government bill designed to control the operations of NGOs in the country was blocked by the president but nevertheless caused months of disruption to food distribution and other such operations.

How long has Sweden been providing support to Zimbabwe?
Swedish aid to Zimbabwe began with support to the liberation movement at the time when the country was still called Southern Rhodesia. After independence in 1980, Sweden provided support for the economic and social development of the country and contact between the Zimbabwean and Swedish governments was very good.

What does Sida do in Zimbabwe?
Owing to the continued crisis, the Swedish attitude to development cooperation in Zimbabwe has been continually revised since 2001Its focus is on the promotion of democratic social development and increased respect for human rights and on helping to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Particular attention is given to children’s rights. The present crisis has prompted extensive support to humanitarian aid, especially in the form of food and medicine. The aid is channelled through NGOs and UN bodies.

Democracy and human rights
Sida supports a number of NGOs that contribute to information campaigns on human rights and the development of a democratic culture. Sweden helps to finance the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) which works for a free and independent media in the region, a mission that is extremely difficult yet important in a country in which the government has total control of the news.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is an organisation engaged, with Sida’s support, in electoral observance. Sida also contributes to the Amani Trust and the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, organisations dedicated to helping the victims of torture. Amani also sees to the documentation of medical injuries and offers legal aid. Sida gives practical support to Justice for Children and its work with children’s rights, and a rights perspective also governs the support given to other organisations, such as the ZWLA, the Scripture Union, Save the Children, and Musasa. Another important organisation fighting for democracy with Sida’s support is the National Constitution Assembly (NCA). The aim of this organisation is to produce a new constitution that will reduce the president’s power and reinforce the position of parliament.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a major threat to the country’s development. It is estimated that more than one in four adult Zimbabwean is infected. The economic crisis has further undermined the already weak welfare state, while social instability facilitates the spread of the disease. Swedish support is given to NGOs working with preventive measures and to care for the sick and dying. Donor countries are trying to effect the greater coordination of HIV/AIDS project support.

The Mashambanzou Trust provides care to poor people who are dying of AIDS in the overpopulated suburbs of Harare. Around 40 per cent of the volunteers are themselves HIV positive. The organisation also runs a day-care centre for children who have been orphaned by AIDS. Around 80 children are accommodated there, and another 70 or so are given a meal there every day.

Another organisation in receipt of Swedish support is the Zimbabwe AIDS Prevention and Support Organisation (ZAPSO), which gives information about HIV to over 30 workplaces.

Children’s rights
An important feature of Swedish support to Zimbabwe is the emphasis it places on children’s safety and welfare. Sida supports a number of organisations that run information and lobbying campaigns on children’s rights. The Farm Orphan Support Trust (FOST) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are two of the organisations to have received increased resources in 2004, helping them to reach out to even more children.

Humanitarian aid
The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is serious. There is a severe shortage of food in the country as a result of drought, economic crisis and reduced agricultural output, owing in turn primarily to a chaotically implemented land reform. Access to medicines and other necessities is also limited. Sweden supports projects designed to address the food problems brought about by drought and the HIV/AIDS epidemic by expanding and improving the efficiency of yam and cassava production; providing agricultural training; and increasing people’s awareness of HIV/AIDS.

By contributing to UN relief initiatives and NGOs, Sweden is helping to alleviate distress. It is of particular importance that aid programmes reach all the needy, irrespective of their political views. The humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe has been going on for five years. One important task is to convince the government of the importance of altering its economic policy, and so Sida supports the efforts of the UN to open a dialogue with the government.

The Africa Groups in Sweden and Forum Syd (an umbrella organisation for individuals and groups working with development cooperation), which have long had extensive operations in the country (especially in the fields of popular education, HIV/AIDS and income-generating activities), pulled out when tougher legislation was announced. The Swedish Cooperative Centre has been active in the country for several years, and is currently focusing on the fields of HIV/AIDS, children, and the environment.

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