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Zimbabwe: ICRC activities from January to March 2008

03-04-2008 Operational Update

Zimbabwe continues to face difficult challenges including high inflation, unemployment, perennially poor harvests, and increasing lack of access to safe water and health services. The following is an overview of the ICRC's key activities in favour of the most vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe.

More and more ordinary Zimbabweans are finding it extremely difficult to meet their basic needs. Many rely on cross-border trading, the black market and help from relatives abroad to survive. Despite these challenges, rural communities are managing to eke out a living.



The ICRC has a long history in Zimbabwe and the southern Africa region. The permanent task of the Regional Delegation is spreading knowledge of and respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) in countries under its purview in the region. In June 2006, the organization expanded its activities through the launch of its health, water and sanitation programmes to help Zimbabweans living in the remote rural areas most affected by the current economic hardships facing the country.

In other countries in the region, the ICRC, with the agreement of government authorities in the respective countries continued to visit persons detained in relation to prevailing situations to monitor their treatment, material conditions, and judicial guarantees. The institution also carried on its activities to re-establish contact between separated families living in refugee camps.

The ICRC continued to support National Red Cross Societies in the region through material, technical and financial assistance.

 Improving the situation of detainees  

Between January and March, the ICRC visited people in Namibian prisons detained in relation to the uprising in the Caprivi strip during 1999. In addition, the institution visited persons previously detained at Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants in Botswana, and later transferred to Dukwi refugee camp.

 Restoring family links for refugees  


From January to March, the ICRC working in Zambia maintained its activities re-establishing family links between persons from neighbouring countries affected by war, and now living in refugee camps in the country. During this period in countries of the region:

  • approximately 2,000 Red Cross Messages (RCMs) were exchanged in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe;

  • one 12-year-old girl who had been in a refugee camp in Zambia was reunited with her family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

 Supporting health centres  

During the first quarter, the ICRC continued to support 16 health structures in three districts of rural Zimbabwe to improve access to essential preventive and curative healthcare through a community-based approach. The organization is also involved in training nurses to improve their knowledge and skills. Between January and March 2008:

  • two tonnes of basic drugs and medical equipment including antibiotics, painkillers, anti-malarial drugs, IV fluids and anti-parasitic drugs were distributed to all 16 health centres supported by the ICRC;

  • 35 nurses from one of the districts attended a training session on new malaria treatment protocol.

 Improving access to safe water  


During the first three months of the year, the ICRC continued to improve access to safe water for rural communities living in the three designated districts where the organization supports health centres. An assortment of spare parts for maintaining hand pumps were donated to the District Development Fund, the rural development arm of the government, in two districts.

Following a memorandum of understanding between ICRC and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) aimed at improving water quality and quantity to residents of Harare and surrounding communities, the organization continued supporting rehabilitation of the Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant. The ICRC donated water testing laboratory equipment, tools, pumps for the water treatment plant, and spare parts for repairing leakages on the main water network.

 Promoting international humanitarian law (IHL)  

The ICRC continued to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law (IHL) among political leaders, the military and police. During the first quarter of the year the delegation:

  • gave one dissemination session for the Zimbabwe Republic Police in Masvingo about 300 km from Harare;

  • facilitated the teaching of the international humanitarian law module at the Zimbabwe Staff College during the Junior Staff Course attended by 74 junior officers from the armed forces of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Tanzania;

  • delivered a presentation on " Integrating IHL in the A rmed Forces " during the induction course attended by 12 newly recruited defence legal advisers in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces;

  • organized a four-day workshop on human rights and humanitarian principles for 25 senior Namibian prison officers;

  • facilitated a workshop on the domestication of the Biological Weapons Convention   in Zimbabwe in conjunction with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.


 Cooperation with National Red Cross Societies  

During the first quarter of 2008, the ICRC, along with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Federation) continued to support the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society and national societies in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia in tracing, dissemination, and disaster preparedness and response.

In January and February, the institution participated in three workshops organized by the Federation on Governance and Management for new board members and senior management of the national society in Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia.