18 September 2005

Zimbabwe: MDG's, a Pipe Dream for Zimbabwe

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe launched the Zimbabwe Millenium Goals (MGDs) Report amid pomp and ceremony two weeks ago, but analysts have dismissed the event saying the lofty objectives contained in the document are unattainable in present-day Zimbabwe.

They said Zimbabwe had not shown political commitment to achieve the main focus of the plans of halving poverty and diseases by the end of this year and eradicating these twin evils by 2015 because it lacks the capacity following the withdrawal of international support,.

In interviews with The Standard last week, the analysts said the country would need an additional two decades after 2015 in order to reach the targets set at the 2000 UN Millennium Summit during which 189 world leaders adopted the MDGs.

The leaders pledged to make significant improvements in health, education, gender equality, the environment and other aspects of human welfare.

But for Zimbabwe, the pledge is likely to remain just that, as the country's ability to improve the welfare of its citizens becomes increasingly compromised by the worst economic and political crisis in its 25-year history.

University of Zimbabwe political scientist, Eldred Masunungure, said it was impossible for Zimbabwe to attain the 2015 MDGs target under the current economic and political dispensation. Most of the 2005 targets have already been missed.

He estimated that Zimbabwe would need an additional 20 years after 2015 to attain the MDGs largely because of misplaced priorities, economic recession and international isolation.

"Instead of moving forward we have regressed five decades back. So to imagine a country which is regressing, talking about achieving developmental goals is hoping for too much," Masunungure said.

Another University of Zimbabwe analyst, Heneri Dzinotyiwei, said being a pariah State, Zimbabwe, does not have the capacity to generate funds needed to attain the goals.

With minimal foreign currency inflows, mounting external debts and decline in investment, chances of attaining the goals were negligible, he said.

Even the Zimbabwe Millennium Development (ZMDGs) Goals 2004 progress report, produced by the government, confirms that achieving the targets was a major challenge.

But the government argues that its efforts were being hampered by "illegal" sanctions imposed by Britain and America.

Current trends indicate that extreme poverty is on the increase in the country. In 1995, only 57% of Zimbabweans lived below the food datum line (FDL) but that has since risen to 80%. The government's target is to half the FDL to 35% by 2015.

But malnutrition levels continue to rise.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, 13% of children under the age of five were malnourished in 1999. But the figure rose to 20% in 2002, suggesting a deepening problem. The target is to reduce under-five malnutrition by two-thirds to 7% by 2015.

In the area of gender and women empowerment, Zimbabwe still lags behind.

The target was to have 30% in Parliament by 2005 and to strike a 50-50 balance by 2015. But only 24 out of the 150 legislators are women, a 16% representation.

Tsitsi Matekaire, the director of Women in Politics Support Unit (WiPSU) attributed the failure to attain 30% women representation in Parliament to lack of political will.

Universal education, touted as independent Zimbabwe's greatest achievement, is under threat from the current unplanned population displacements, brain drain and the HIV and Aids pandemic.

The ZMDGs report says in 2000 primary school enrolment was 92.6% but the completion was down at 75.6%, indicating that 17% dropped out.

This has been attributed unplanned policies such as the chaotic land reform programme of 2000 and more recently, "Operation Murambatsvina", which rendered 700 000 destitute without sources of livelihood, throwing thousands of pupils out of school.

However, a report from the UN Commission for Africa maintains that Zimbabwe was likely to achieve universal primary educational goal by 2015. The report was issued last week to coincide with the World Summit at the UN in New York, where MDGs were a major topic of discussion.

"This sharp rise in maternal mortality rate is largely explained by the rapid spread of the HIV and AIDS epidemic," says the report.

While the health ministry insists that that HIV and AIDS infection rates were going down, analysts dispute this assertion.

"I think figures are deceiving because the situation on the ground is different. People are dying. We see them," Masunungure said.

Nearly 4 000 people die every week because of the pandemic.

Community Working Group on Health executive director, Itai Rusike, attributed the failure to allocation of inadequate resources, compounded by the withdrawal of international support by the European Union and other individual donor organisations.

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