Africa

Zimbabwe forsakes the vulnerable

Kudzai Mashininga

A report says the national budget has failed to provide adequately for vulnerable citizens as the economic crisis deepends.

Critical food shortages, among other challenges, have resulted in rising poverty in Zimbabwe. (AFP)

The state's social safety net is collapsing as more people are reduced to destitution by the deepening economic crisis.

And it doesn't help that government coffers are empty and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have reduced their assistance in recent years.

Critical food shortages, HIV and Aids and the worsening economic environment have resulted in rising poverty in Zimbabwe, which in turn has increased the number of people dependent on donors and the government.

Because of strained relations between Western countries and President Robert Mugabe's government, many donors have pulled out of Zimbabwe.

Also aggravating the situation is that, according to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, about 700 firms have shut shop in the past 12 months, increasing the number of the jobless who need of state aid.

A parliamentary report on social welfare says the 2014 national budget has failed to provide adequately for items that are critical for assisting vulnerable citizens.

Pro-poor budget initiative won't be realised
The report says in most instances there have been decreases in allocations such as support for people living with disabilities, by 12.5%, and the national heroes' dependence assistance, by 50%.

The latter is given by the government to surviving spouses and children of those who are declared national heroes.

"The pro-poor budget initiative enshrined in several government blueprints, including the current Zim-Asset policy document, will not be realised if some of the critical social budget items remain underfunded. The allocations fall short of achieving the basic goals of improving living standards of the poor and vulnerable citizens," reads part of the parliamentary report.

"The government should prioritise budget items that ensure the minimum basic standard of living to vulnerable citizens such as food, basic education, health and shelter. These are basic rights enshrined in the new Constitution of Zimbabwe."

The report says more citizens will be vulnerable in the near future, owing to poor rainfall in the past season, low industrial capacity utilisation and dwindling humanitarian assistance from development partners.

The report says 2 923 children at orphanages have no support and many orphanages may be forced to downsize owing to lack of funds.

Older people left unassisted
As for support for older people, of the 60 000 beneficiaries who were receiving health assistance, the budget has left 18 690 unassisted.

The World Food Programme says two million people need food assistance this year. Parliament's report is not too different: more than 75% of the estimated 1.8-million people who need food will face starvation as the $1.6-million allocated under the budget for food deficit was insufficient.

Government would also only be able to help 83 000 children against a needy 250 000 in secondary schools who need school fees assistance.

This week the fund-strapped state said it urgently needed $20-million from the international community to evacuate and relocate 60 000 people affected by flooding in Chivi, Masvingo.

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