ZIMBABWE: Aid money almost too tight to mention

JOHANNESBURG, (IRIN) – The international humanitarian community's most important tool for raising resources for action in Zimbabwe, the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), is out of date and in need of revision. The question is whether appealing for more funds to keep pace with worsening conditions will actually translate into enough money to remedy them.

The CAP 2009 was launched in November 2008, but "the situation in [Zimbabwe] has obviously moved on," Catherine Bragg, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, told IRIN.

Discussions were underway to ensure the CAP 2009 document better reflected the current humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, Bragg noted after leading a UN assessment mission to the country at the end of February. "The cholera epidemic is still ongoing and the humanitarian situation has gotten much worse."

By early March cholera had claimed more than 4,000 lives and nearly 90,000 Zimbabweans had been infected since the outbreak began in August 2008.

The food security situation is still deteriorating rapidly: the original CAP 2009 projected 5.1 million Zimbabweans depending on food aid in the first quarter of 2009, but that number is now closer to 7 million.

Growing hunger, growing needs

Halfway through 2008, the humanitarian community in Zimbabwe estimated it would take around US$350 million to address immediate needs in the country; by November the figure in the CAP had grown to US$550 million.

The new numbers were mainly a reflection of rising food insecurity – the food component shot up from US$173 million at the beginning of 2008 to US$411 million by the 2008 mid-year review. "A 137 percent increase," Luke McCallin, the Flash Appeal Coordinator of the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN.

In January 2009 the sharp increase in the number of emergency food aid beneficiaries led to a halving of cereal rations, which were already cut in late 2008 in the face of donor funding shortfalls. 

By March 2009 the collapse of Zimbabwe’s health sector and the unprecedented outbreak of cholera caused the CAP to balloon to well over US$570 million. Expectations are that the latest revision will lift the required amount beyond that, but the exact figure remains unclear.

"It is difficult to tell at this stage. There is an agreement to conduct inter-agency assessments that will inform the CAP Review," said Muktar Ali Farah, the Officer in Charge at OCHA in Zimbabwe.

Asking for money is one thing; getting donors to shell out is another. As of 12 March 2008, commitments to the 2009 CAP covered a mere 18 percent of requirements.

CAPs are notoriously underfunded, particularly early in the year. The average level of funding for all CAPs worldwide in 2009 so far is at 25 percent. "Zimbabwe is not far off the pace in terms of other African CAPs, either percentage-wise or in dollar amounts," McCallin said.

Having the money at the right time is often crucial. "One of the problems we have in general with CAPs is that donor financial years vary widely, and so their decisions on when and how much to fund do not always correspond to the needs as we identify them. For example, we often get increased funding towards the end of the year as donors look to spend their annual amounts."

‘Lifesaving’ semantics

Competing priorities mean the spread of limited finance across the various sectors of intervention has reached a critical point. "Zimbabwe is facing a multisector crisis. Food, health, water supply and Sanitation, and protection remain the main priorities at the moment," Muktar noted.

"The problem in Zimbabwe … is that funding has not been going to sectors of the emergency which critically need it, such as agriculture and economic recovery," McCallin said. Sectors usually not perceived as ‘life-saving’ had long been downplayed due to their developmental nature.

''The problem in Zimbabwe … is that funding has not been going to sectors of the emergency which critically need it, such as agriculture and economic recovery''

The CAP is a strictly ‘humanitarian’ financing tool, and thus traditionally restricted to short-term emergency needs, but does make provision for including support to communities requiring emergency early recovery to strengthen coping mechanisms and sustainable livelihoods – this is a grey area between humanitarian and development work.

The CAP 2009 document noted the need to bridge the gap between what is humanitarian and what is developmental: "Support to development sectors and activities in Zimbabwe has traditionally been poor.

"Considering that the CAP remains one of the few funding frameworks for donor engagement in Zimbabwe, and despite the prevailing political uncertainty, it will require more donor support to essential sectors that were critically underfunded in 2008."

Getting the message out

The humanitarian community has consistently advocated emergency funding for agriculture, watsan [water and sanitation], education, and HIV and AIDS.

"Although they represent underlying causes and require mid- to long-term approaches, they also fall under emergency needs. For example, in Zimbabwe an estimated 2,300 persons die per week due to HIV/AIDS, and on an average only 250 persons die due to cholera," Muktar said.

According to Bragg, "there are a number of sectors in particular that we need to revise. Water and sanitation and health are obvious, in terms of trying to contain cholera as well as other infectious diseases. The breakdown of the health sector had not been to such an extent when we did the consolidated appeal [in November 2008]," she commented.

"Traditionally we don’t include a lot of agricultural activities in a humanitarian appeal but in this case we have to look at this as life-saving, in the sense that if we don’t do it, next year we will continue to have seven million people requiring direct food aid," Bragg said.

"We think, and we hope, that we will be in an environment where we can carry out some of our traditional protection activities … We think there is now a slight opening for that."


Photo: ReliefWeb
Zimbabwe and surrounding countries

Development sectors would include emergency agriculture and education, health, water and sanitation, assistance to victims of politically motivated violence, and sustainable return and reconciliation in affected communities. "Any delay in addressing these needs will only result in a greater humanitarian caseload," the CAP 2009 document warned.

According to McCallin, donors have picked up on the need: "Health, in the specific context of Zimbabwe, has done better this year [2009], probably because of the attention to the cholera outbreak." The health requirement was 8 percent funded in 2006, 30 percent in 2007, and 57 percent in 2008, he noted.

"On a related issue, for WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] – which is inextricably linked to the health crisis and cholera outbreak – the funding over the same few years has been 17 percent, 60 percent and 90 percent respectively. There is a trend there, which is probably improved donor response to a growing crisis."