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FOREWORD Today there is a real opportunity to reduce the huge suffering of children in Zimbabwe. They have suffered the most during the country’s political, social and economic crisis. As the gap between wealthy and poor and other vulnerable groups has widened, their basic rights have not been met. However, there is reason now to be optimistic. Hyperinflation has been reined in, the economy - which shrunk by 50 per cent – is slowly stabilising and basic social services have been revitalised. On the political side the Inclusive Government was inaugurated in February 2009, and constitutional reform is underway. Children have also participated in drawing up the country’s new constitution. Commissions are being established, including a Human Rights Commission. In this current climate, it is now possible to move away from emergency assistance and to plan for sustainable development. Gradually, with support from UNICEF and other partners, a difference is being made to the most vulnerable children and youth. The challenges are nevertheless massive to ensure sustainable development with equity and to ensure that all children have their rights met. In education, although most children attend primary school, poor quality education and deepening poverty over the past 15 years have left about one million children without an option to continue on to secondary school. Girls represent only 35 per cent of pupils in upper secondary school, despite gender parity in primary school. Children with disabilities and other special needs are often denied their right to education and excluded from school altogether. In this booklet you can discover how communities have been supported to participate in the building of classrooms and toilets. In addition, teachers have benefitted from refresher courses, pupils have received text books and their schools now have safe water. Moreover, an increasing number of orphans and other vulnerable children, including those living with HIV and AIDS, children with disabilities and other special needs, are being given the chance of an education. In health and nutrition, the challenges are just as huge. Chronic malnutrition has reached 34 per cent, the level of a serious public health problem. Under-five mortality has increased by about 20 per cent since the 1990 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were first introduced. Now, out of 1,000 live births, as many as 94 children die before their fifth birthday. Newborn disorders – most of which are preventable – account for almost one-third of all under-five deaths; HIVand AIDS accounts for a further 20 per cent. Even more alarming is the increase in the maternal mortality rate, which has doubled from 390 to 790 per 100,000 live births. Again, most of these deaths are preventable. You can read how women and children are gradually gaining access to quality health care, especially at the critical stages of their life cycle, such as during pregnancy, childbirth and in the child’s first five years. You can read how more – albeit not enough-- HIV-positive mothers are receiving a full package of support to prolong their life and to avoid transmitting the HIV virus to their baby. You can also read how malnourished children can be fully treated if caught in time with effective and relatively cheap interventions. Despite this, many suffer irreversible damage. The chronically malnourished child featured in the booklet, like so many others, will never grow and develop to her full potential. Due to stunted vital organs she will remain vulnerable to chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

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Some of the worst disparities are related to water and sanitation issues. Although, nationally, 73 per cent of the population has access to safe water and 60 per cent to improved sanitation facilities, more than 60 per cent of the rural water infrastructure is in disrepair and 40 per cent of those living in rural areas resort to open defecation. Diarrhoea is one of the main child killers. During 2008-2009, Zimbabwe suffered one of the largest cholera epidemics ever recorded in Africa, which resulted in nearly 100,000 cholera cases and 4,288 deaths in one year. You can read about orphans who have benefitted from a UNICEF project to build improved latrines and wells for the most vulnerable children, particularly those affected by HIV and AIDS. Many children do not benefit from the basic right to have a protective environment. Despite progress in the welfare and justice system, the services needed to be adapted so that they are provided in an equitable way and that the most vulnerable groups such as orphans, child detainees, children living and working on the streets and displaced children can access them. Gender-based violence is common. Studies indicate that a fifth of girls report that their first sexual encounter is forced and close to half of all women say they accept domestic violence in certain instances. Two thirds of children say they are subjected to corporal punishment. According to local evidence, orphans are more likely to suffer from psychological problems and subjected to abuse, including forced sex in adolescence which increases their likelihood of contracting HIV. The National AIDS Council found that 25 per cent of girls affected by HIV are exposed to sexual violence before their 18th birthday. Zimbabwe has the largest orphan population in the world. A quarter of all children under 18 - that is a staggering one million children – have lost at least one parent. You can read how non-governmental organisations are trying to protect the most vulnerable children; for example children with disabilities, children who have been deported back into Zimbabwe after trying to cross illegally into neighbouring countries and children living with HIV. HIV and AIDS have had a devastating effect on families and on the development of the country. Today, however, there are signs that Zimbabwe is gradually bringing the HIV and AIDS pandemic under control. The HIV and AIDS prevalence rate has declined from 24.6 per cent in 2003 to 14 per cent in 2010, and more people now receive antiretroviral drugs and other psychosocial support. It is inspiring to read the moving story of an adolescent girl who was born HIV positive and, despite her difficult home life, is now a remarkable peer educator and learning to live positively with HIV. You can also read about young people who are helping desperate families affected by HIV in their communities. They help them with domestic chores as well as caring for orphans. Although the stories in the booklet depict pain and suffering, they also give hope. There is hope that development can take place with equity, children and women will have their rights met and there will be steady progress towards the 2015 MDGs. The diplomatic and donor community, civil society, other UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector must work together to support Zimbabwe. Together we can support the children of Zimbabwe, so that they all can access their basic rights they all can have a chance to build a more equitable and better future for themselves.


to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea by nearly a half. Diarrhoea is one of the main child killers in Zimbabwe and cholera is endemic.

The right to sanitation. Hand washing with soap is estimated

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taught to read Braille. Children with disabilities and other special needs should have equal access to all their rights.

children with disabilities. Blind children are being

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where more than 60 per cent of the water infrastructure is in disrepair.

water. Many children spend hours fetching water especially in the rural areas,

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the right to quality education.

Children enjoy the benefits of a UNICEF supported Child Friendly School. Most children attend primary school in Zimbabwe, but about one million children do not continue on to secondary school. Girls represent only 35 per cent of pupils in upper secondary school.

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Newborn disorders – most of which are preventable – account for almost one-third of all under-five deaths.

health. A baby receives a polio vaccine.

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including the orphaned and vulnerable, should have access to all their rights. Zimbabwe has one million children who have lost at least one parent.

orphans and vulnerable children. All children,

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to support some of the school’s running costs. The right to a nutritious diet is denied to many children. Chronic malnutrition has reached 34 per cent; it is a serious public health problem.

nutrition. Children help with a vegetable garden at their school; the produce will be sold

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Unicef Zimbabwe Country Programme Photo Sheet