The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says it is deeply concerned about increased suffering for everyday Zimbabweans, particularly children, as a result of grave economic problems facing the southern African country. “Every day in Zimbabwe the basic elements required for a healthy and happy childhood –affordable education, three meals per day, clothing and shelter – are being pushed out of reach for people,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe, Festo Kavishe. With official inflation at 4,530 per cent, the cost of essential goods and services is increasing every day, in some cases doubling, the agency notes in a press release issued today. The country is facing “critical shortages” of drugs, as well as key health and education staff, and has entered another drought year. Last month Zimbabwe’s Central Statistics Office said the basic “family food basket” for a family of six cost $100. However, a teacher’s salary equates to just $18 per month, and that of a nurse $20. Unemployment is reported at more than 70 per cent. And yet, UNICEF says, amid these colossal hardships, significant accomplishments have been made. Ninety-five per cent of orphans continue to be absorbed by the extended family, while last year Zimbabwe became the first country in southern Africa to record a fall in the HIV rate – from 24.6 per cent to 20 per cent. Working across Zimbabwe in areas of child protection, education, health, nutrition, water, sanitation and HIV prevention, UNICEF says Zimbabweans have been “nothing short of miraculous” in attempting to cope with the current economic crisis and in caring for their children.“This country is full of heroes,” said Mr. Kavishe. “The grandmothers who work 18-hour days to keep half a dozen orphaned grandchildren in school, the volunteers who devote their time to caring for those racked with pain from AIDS but without drugs, the millions of Zimbabweans who just refuse to give up hope.” At the same time, he cautioned that the country has entered a new phase of hardship. “These are people who forgo bread for books so as to keep their children in school, who are uncomfortable with putting their hand out, but their options are exhausted.” In the past two years, with funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the European Commission, and the Governments of Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia, UNICEF has increased the number of orphans in Zimbabwe it reaches tenfold, from 50,000 to 500,000. But it warned that critical programmes in HIV prevention, health, nutrition and education remain less than 20 per cent funded. 26 June 2007The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says it is deeply concerned about increased suffering for everyday Zimbabweans, particularly children, as a result of grave economic problems facing the southern African country.