UN in Zimbabwe Marks World Humanitarian Day

Harare, 19 August 2015 – The UN in Zimbabwe joins the world to mark the World Humanitarian Day under the theme “Share Humanity” to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the globe and  recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others.

UN Resident Coordinator, Bishow Parajuli said, “We, as UN, pay a profound tribute to the families and all humanitarian workers who have lost their lives in action while serving humanity.  I salute those who are in active humanitarian duty away from friends and loved ones in difficult and hostile areas risking their lives to help others.”

This year, more than 100 million women, men and children need life-saving humanitarian assistance. The amount of people affected by conflict has reached levels not seen since the Second World War, while the number of those affected by natural and human-induced disasters remains profound. 

“This means that Governments, the United Nations, Development Partners and the humanitarian community have to rise not only to the level of this emergency by acting faster to save lives but also in working together steadfastly for long-term solution” said the UN Resident Coordinator.

This recurrent humanitarian crisis raises a serious question as to what is the underlying cause of this calamity and why are certain countries in such a weak position to respond and mitigate when hit by such crisis?

Citing the latest Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) report, the UN Resident Coordinator said that Zimbabwe has been suffering from recurrent food insecurity as a result of drought, in which 1.5 million Zimbabweans (16% of rural households) are likely to be unable to meet their food needs during the 2015/2016 hunger season and that the UN system in particular WFP as well as NGOs are being involved in food supply and delivery.

Though food shortages is clearly triggered by adverse weather conditions, there are also a complex set of problems such as lack of extensive irrigation systems, weak or underdeveloped agricultural systems, lack of effective extension services, weak markets, effects of climate change and gender disparity, amongst many others. These are issues that are either missing or need to be strengthened.

Firstly, ensuring food security is the key. To meet the expanded food needs of a rapidly growing population coupled with effects of climate change will require radical changes in the quantity of resources available to the agricultural sector.  Food security also includes access to the food resource which implies that we must ensure access to markets is facilitated to those that need it and that we need to ensure that people consume the right food.

Second, sustainable and responsible use of natural resources. The livelihood of more than half of the economically active population in Zimbabwe directly depends on the environment through agriculture, as well as animal husbandry, hunting, fishing, forestry, and foraging. Better environmental stewardship is essential to sustain development. The increased accessibility of agricultural inputs to small farmers and the introduction of sustainable methods of farming will help create attractive alternatives to current environmentally destructive patterns of resource use.

Third, develop effective gender inclusion programs, where children men and women have their individual specificities considered and cared for. As an example women are frequently caretakers of rural resources such as forests and water supplies and provide much of the agricultural supply of labour, thus it is of primary importance they be integrated into the economy. In this regard, poverty alleviation efforts must target increasingly women’s and young adult’s economic status to reduce their dependence on unsustainable methods of production and livelihoods.

Fourth, there is need for adequate, predictable, timely and flexible responses, including financial and human resources, to provide adequate early warning and effective mitigation activities preventing or diminishing the need for humanitarian responses that implies that failure has taken place in some of the above elements.

The Government together with the United Nations system and other partners has been delivered a range of services, including water and sanitation; promoting conservation agriculture and seed multiplication projects; support to orphaned and vulnerable children; providing support to HIV affected and infected households through prevention, care and support programmes; and livelihood diversification, income and employment-generating projects.

In addition, the UN system has been providing capacity building support to Zimbabwe through developing a strong disaster risk management and early warning systems, resilience building framework as well as advocacy and awareness raising campaigns in hygiene promotion among communities. These programmes have had significant impacts in preparedness and focused responses particularly on those most in need.

The UN system in Zimbabwe will continue to support Zimbabwe in its endeavour to prepare and assist to respond to natural disasters.

The World Humanitarian Day the UN General Assembly designated the day as World Humanitarian Day in 2009 in honor of all humanitarian personnel who have worked in the promotion of the humanitarian cause and those who lost their lives in the cause of duty. It is also meant to contribute to increase public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities worldwide and the importance of international cooperation.