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Water threat looms in Zimbabwe: CEN 11.16.07 p 7. November 18, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Disaster Relief, NGOs, Politics, Zimbabwe.

robert_mugabe.jpgZimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, is set to run out of water, the British relief agency Tearfund reports.

Four of the five reservoirs that supply the city of 1.5 million have run dry, and the government has refused to come to the people’s aid unless the opposition led Bulawayo city council turns over the city’s water department to the control of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority.

“Churches in Bulawayo”, an interfaith alliance, has stepped in with the support of the city by setting up water tanks at churches to supply potable water for the city’s residents: a solution that observers see as too little too late.

“The crisis in Bulawayo has seen people scavenging for filthy water from hand-dug pits and broken pipes,” Tearfund’s international director Peter Grant said. “People are living on nothing more than cups of tea with the last of their maize meal now gone,” he said.

Water and sewer revenues generated almost 80 percent of the city’s income last year. Turning over the water department the national government would cripple one of the last opposition strongholds to the Mugabe regime, and would do little to resolve the crisis as the regime has no foreign currency reserves to fund construction projects to alleviate the shortage.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York estimates that Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate exceeds 10,000 percent, four of every five adults are jobless, and that gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has shrunk by over 46 percent since 1998.

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that more than one-third of all Zimbabweans will need food assistance by early 2008. Approximately three million Zimbabweans have fled their country, accounting for roughly one-quarter of the total population. Remittances from expatriates, international food aid, and support from churches and NGOs keep the country alive, the CFR said.

“Zimbabwe doesn’t have to be like this.” Mr. Grant said. “Churches are working tirelessly to bridge the gap, meeting the acute need. Despite the spiralling economic crisis they are bringing relief and hope. But they urgently need our help for this work to continue.”

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