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UN pledges to assist Zimbabwe beyond cholera epidemic
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18:14, February 24, 2009

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The United Nations has pledged to assist Zimbabwe beyond the cholera epidemic with any other help Harare may require, including reviving the agricultural sector to ensure national food security, The Herald reported on Tuesday.

The UN team visiting Zimbabwe to assess the country's humanitarian needs made the pledge during a meeting with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe at Zimbabwe House in Harare on Monday.

President Mugabe welcomed the delegation and assured it that the government would assist to make the visit a success.

Team leader UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emerge-ncy Relief Co-ordinator Catherine Bragg described the meeting with President Mugabe as "fruitful".

"We talked of the continuing partnership between the UN and the government. The President spoke positively. He invited me back," she said.

Bragg said they discussed the possibility of any other form of humanitarian assistance that Zimbabwe may require. "We are focusing on cholera and any form of humanitarian assistance the UN can offer," she said.

President Mugabe gave the team free access to assess the country's humanitarian needs. "We hope the mission will be well accomplished. We will assist to the best of our abilities," he said.

Bragg said her team had held positive meetings with government ministers and non-governmental organizations.

She had so far met with the ministers of Labour, Education, Health, Agriculture and Foreign Affairs.

As part of the visit, the UN team will visit Wedza, Ruwa and cholera treatment centers.

Sources who attended the meeting at Zimbabwe House disclosed that discussions also centered on how the UN could assist Zimbabwe revive the agricultural sector.

The sources said President Mugabe gave a background of how the cholera outbreak began, saying the first cases were reported in Uzumba.

The president acknowledged that Budiriro was the hardest hit suburb because it faced many challenges, ranging from inadequate sewer and road infrastructure.

President Mugabe appreciated the humanitarian assistance provided by UN agencies, citing the World Health Organization, World Food Program and the United Nations Children's Fund.

"We will never, never fail to acknowledge that charitable work that is going on through the WHO, WFP and Unicef," he said.

The president indicated to the UN delegation that the inclusive government was working reasonably well.

He told them that just before meeting them, he had held another meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai where the two had exchanged notes on the operations of the inclusive government.

Sources said President Mugabe made a passionate plea during the meeting for the lifting of the illegal sanctions imposed by the West, saying the embargo was hurting ordinary Zimbabweans.

"Why are sanctions there now? They have punished our people sufficiently. Should they continue to punish our people this way?" President Mugabe was quoted as having told the UN team.


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