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Tom Arnold visits Zimbabwe

Tom Arnold recently visited Zimbabwe to see first hand Concern's ongoing work and emergency response to recent cholera outbreaks. Over 2,300 deaths and 44,300 cases of the disease are contributing to a severe deterioration in the humanitarian situation.

Read Tom Arnold’s recent Irish Examiner article about Zimbabwe

Concern’s team has been responding to this crisis since 14 December 2008, helping with water, sanitarian and hygiene in the town of Chegutu, 110km west of Harare. The largest concentration of cholera cases and fatalities have been seen in Chegutu.

Preventing cholera

In Gokwe North, Gokwe South and Nyanga cholera levels are still climbing. Concern is using preventative measures in these areas to limit the spread of cholera. However, in the event of any significant outbreak of cholera, Concern staff will work with UNICEF to distribute cholera kits immediately.

Food shortages

In recent weeks, Concern’s staff have seen a virtual collapse in all public services. With the economy in near meltdown and inflation rampant, food shortages are likely to lead to an emergency situation in the country in the first quarter of 2009. 

It is estimated by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization that Zimbabwe only has 17% of the maize seed needed for this season and only 2.6% of its fertiliser. Recent wheat harvests were only 10% of the country’s requirements leading to a huge food deficit expected in 2009.

Crisis situation

“The political situation in the country is stealing the international headlines,” explains Mark Harper, Concern’s Assistant Country Director in Zimbabwe, “but this media focus is also masking the very real humanitarian crisis situation – and one which is likely to worsen considerably in the coming months.”

Rising tension

“The situation is critical,” says Harper, “as it is the United Nations who sources the food and their stocks will run out by January.” This is already leading to some tension on the ground. “At Concern distributions there have been a number of incidents, which is in line with increasing lawlessness and desperation for food.” 

For media queries, please contact Paul O’Mahony, Communications Officer, Concern: ++ 353 1 417 7750