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Zimbabwe: ICRC activities from January to June 2008

21-07-2008 Operational Update

Significant humanitarian challenges continue to pervade the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans following the recent elections. The following is an overview of the ICRC's activities in favour of people affected by political violence and the most vulnerable communities in the country.

  ©ICRC/R. Waudo/zw-e-00032    
  Registered General Nurse Mafios Choto gives a refresher course on malaria awareness to community health workers who volunteer to perform community awareness and mobilization on health issues in Makoni District.    

  ©ICRC/M. Sithole/zw-e-00042    
  Nyamukamani Clinic, Makoni District. A baby receives vaccinations. The ICRC provides essential drugs and medical equipment to polyclinics in Zimbabwe.    

  ©ICRC/M. Sithole/zw-e-00043    
  Tshitatshawa Primary School, Tsholotsho District. Pupils use a hand pump maintained with ICRC support.    

  ©ICRC/S. Brack/zw-e-00040    
  Pumula, Tsholotsho District. A mother with her child is delighted upon receiving a mosquito net.    

The tense atmosphere following the 29 March elections culminated in an upsurge of politically motivated violence in many parts of the country. This exacerbated the rapidly declining humanitarian environment characterized by hyperinflation, shortages of basic commodities and poor harvests.


The political violence following the 29 March elections has led to a continually deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country. In response, the ICRC has assisted over 2,000 people with essential food and non-food items to meet their immediate needs.

The ICRC is also trying to get access to places of detention in Zimbabwe.

The ICRC has a long history of working 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 Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

The growing hardships and humanitarian needs of the people in Zimbabwe in the recent past saw the ICRC in 2006 expand its activities. It launched programmes in health and water and sanitation to help those living in remote rural areas. Since late 2007, the institution extended its activities to support the Zimbabwe National Water Authority in the provision of quality water to the capital city, Harare and surrounding communities. In June 2008, the organization began supporting health structures in the high-density suburbs of Harare, where the majority of the city's residents live.

In Namibia, the ICRC, with the agreement of government authorities, continued to visit persons detained in relation to the prevailing situation in order to monitor their treatment and material conditions. The institution also carried on its activities to re-establish contact between separated families living in refugee camps in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 Assistance to persons affected by violence in Zimbabwe  


Since April, the ICRC in Zimbabwe has assisted people affected by politically motivated violence following the elections on 29 March. More than 2,000 people have received food rations and essential household items including blankets, kitchen sets, soap, and tarpaulins to meet their immediate needs. The institution continues to monitor the situation and will try to respond to needs as they arise.

 Supporting health centres in Zimbabwe  


During the first half of the year, the ICRC continued to support 16 health structures and began supporting three district hospitals. This primary health care program aims to improve access to essential preventive and curative healthcare for over 160,000 people living in three districts of rural Zimbabwe.

To improve access to healthcare for people living in the high-density suburbs of Harare, in June the ICRC began providing support to polyclinics with essential drugs and basic medical equipment. A majority of Harare's residents live in these high-density suburbs.

From January to June 2008:

  • more than two tonnes of essential drugs and medical supplies including antibiotics, pain-killers, anti-malarial drugs, IV fluids and anti-parasitic drugs were distributed to all 19 health structures supported by the ICRC, including three district hospitals;

  • about two tonnes of drugs and medical supplies were distributed to eight polyclinics in Harare's high-density suburbs;

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

 Improving access to safe water in Zimbabwe  


During the first half of the year, the ICRC continued to improve access to safe water for rural communities. About 270,000 people living in the three designated districts where the institution supports health structures benefited from these activities. The ICRC works in cooperation with the District Development Fund (DDF), the rural development arm of the government to maintain this programme. The institution supplies spare parts to DDF for repairing hand pumps in their communities.

The ICRC also continued to support the maintenance of the Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Plant in Harare. This follows agreement of a memorandum of understanding with the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) in 2007. The agreement is aimed at improving water quality and quantity for about 500,000 residents of Harare and its surrounding communities. 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) in Zimbabwe and Namibia  


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

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

  • delivered a presentation on " Integrating IHL in the Armed Forces " during the induction course attended by 27 newly recruited defence legal advisers in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces;

  • facilitated the teaching of the IHL module at the Zimbabwe Staff College during the Joint Command and Staff Course, and the Junior Staff Course attended by 130 officers from the armed forces of Zimbabwe and other SADC countries;

  • delivered a one-day IHL seminar to 32 officers of the Zimbabwe National Army attending a three week training course for military observers organized at the SADC Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre;

  • 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 Defence Forces;

  • gave dissemination sessions at Solusi University, Midlands State University, and University of Zimbabwe to more than 550 students of law and political science, and introduced the National IHL Essay Competition to st udents.

 Improving the situation of detainees in Namibia  


Between January and June, 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, who were later transferred to Dukwi refugee camp. In addition, the institution, with the assistance of the Namibia Red Cross Society, organized for families to visit their detained relatives in Namibia.

 Restoring family links for refugees in Zambia  


In Zambia, between January and June 2008, the ICRC maintained its activities to re-establish family links between persons from neighbouring countries affected by war and now living in refugee camps in the country. During this period:

  • about 3,700 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).

 Cooperation with National Red Cross Societies  

During the first half of 2008, the ICRC continued to support five of the six National Societies covered by its regional delegation (Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia) with their tracing, dissemination and disaster preparedness and response activities.

On 8 May, World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is celebrated all over the world. In Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe, a variety of events were organized, which attracted local media coverage. In Botswana, dissemination sessions were given for 20 branch volunteers, school headmasters and teachers. In Malawi, board members and members of the National Society secretariat conducted a promotional tour of all divisions during which branch leaders and volunteers were reminded of what the Red Cross stands for. In Zimbabwe, a parade involving volunteers and members of the public was organized in Masvingo (300 km from Harare).