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If I were Zimbabwean, I would be dead

If I were Zimbabwean, I’d be dead. Because the average life expectancy here is just 34 for women (and 37 for men). This is largely due to AIDS. But, there’s a political and economic crisis here as well, which has resulted in about half the country’s 12 million population becoming completely dependent on food aid.

I can’t even imagine the impact this has on children. Grandparents here worry about how to feed them in an environment where, as my colleague Anna, the information officer for Zimbabwe, says, unemployment is over 90%. 90%!! By contrast, the last I heard, the recession in America has resulted in an unemployment rate of just 8 or 9%.

I have a theory. It’s the most beautiful places in the world that suffer the most trouble – conflict, instability, disintegration, sadness. Look at Kashmir, or Sri Lanka, or Zimbabwe. Okay, maybe I’ve developed that theory because I think Zimbabwe is one of the most beautiful places I have seen!

But, this is an exciting time to be in Zimbabwe. A new constitution is being drafted and the people here are hopeful. Save the Children has been in Zimbabwe for a quarter of a century, and we get to talk to the new government about what we are doing and seeing. We can really help build up things in Zimbabwe.

Already things are looking up. Families who had to travel twelve hours in a bus to Botswana to buy monthly supplies can now shop right here in Harare, the capital city. “Food is available here again after more than two years,” they say. I’m hoping that’s the case outside Harare as well.

There are other signs of hope, too. Last year a cholera epidemic threatened to wipe out all hope of recovery from the crisis, but now the WHO is reporting that it’s on the decline. Save the Children’s response, along with the efforts of the government and other agencies, has helped to arrest and contain it.

I am here to assist with our response to the cholera epidemic. I’m really excited because this is the first time I’ve been deployed to help out with an emergency outside Asia. I think that drawing on a worldwide pool of staff, to do emergency work where it’s most needed, is a very clever way of managing things.

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