UK gives $35 million for orphan care

The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development has committed $35 million towards the implementation of the government’s National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children.

The Action Plan, launched by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare last week, aims to improve the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable children in Zimbabwe over the next four years.

President Mugabe did not attend the launch, which was attended by Tsvangirai's deputy Thokozani Khupe, Education minister David Coltart, minister of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare Paurina Mpariwa, DFID boss Dave Fish and UNICEF boss Peter Salama.

Britain's coalition government has applauded economic progress under Zimbabwe's power-sharing government, but wants more political reforms. It has promised more aid if the GNU unlocks more political reforms and conducts free and fair polls.

The DFID director said his organisation, in partnership with the Netherlands, Sweden and the European Union, would provide cash transfers to the poorest households and ensure that the most vulnerable children in Zimbabwe were protected from violence and abuse.

The unity government is credited with stabilising an economy crushed by hyperinflation about two and half years ago and reducing political violence. The UK government says it is rewarding this progress.

But the cash will not go through government. A specific funding mechanism, the Child Protection Fund, managed by UNICEF to support the implementation of the plan has been set up.

“We are committed to working with the national government, bi-lateral and multi-lateral partners to protect the most vulnerable and support the poorest households in Zimbabwe to climb out of poverty," said Fish.

An estimated 1.7 million people countrywide are facing acute hunger in Zimbabwe – a country which once fed its people and exported food to the world. Every day, 400 people die of AIDS-related diseases. Zimbabwe has more orphans as a percentage of the population than any other country in the world, largely because of HIV.

DFID supports a range of development programmes that directly benefit the most vulnerable, helping to reduce poverty and hunger; increase access to education and employment; empower women and girls; improve maternal and child health; reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS; and reduce the number of people without access to water and sanitation. This year DFID’s budget for Zimbabwe is $130m, the largest ever, Fish said.

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