AT least 4,3 million people in Zimbabwe, among them two million children are at risk of falling prey to flashfloods and water-borne diseases this rainy season, global humanitarian organisation United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has said.

Unicef said it was mobilising US$54,7 million to provide critical services to the families at high risk.

It said the funds would be channelled towards the impacts of flooding and epidemics including COVID-19, as well as impacts of the worsening economic crisis.

“In 2022, there is a significant need for increased funding to provide critical (water, sanitation and hygiene) WASH services for children and families, in response to the impacts of potential flooding and water-borne diseases,” read the Unicef statement.

“Without sufficient and timely funding, 4,3 million people, including 2,2 million children, are at risk of life-threatening multiple hazards triggered by the country’s unfolding humanitarian crisis,” it said.

To address the impending risks of floods, disease outbreaks and deepening economic crisis, Unicef said it would strengthen government-led national and district co-ordination structures’ emergency preparedness and response capacity.

“Working with humanitarian partners, Unicef will also strengthen coordination structures for the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse to ensure that crisis-affected populations have access to appropriate prevention and response interventions.”

Unicef also said food shortages were expected, particularly at the beginning of 2022 when poor households would be market-reliant amid lower purchasing power due to macroeconomic conditions with up to 2,5 million facing nutritional crisis.

“According to the (Zimbabwe Statistics Agency) ZimStats 2020 Rapid Poverty Income Consumption Expenditure Survey (PICES) phone survey conducted from December 2020 to March 2021, a significant share of households continue to report reduced income from various sources in the aftermath of the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“More than four million Zimbabweans, predominantly vulnerable children and women, including people living with HIV and disabilities will need access to primary healthcare and nutritional services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Unicef said.

The organisation said the fund would also respond to child protection and gender-based violence with more than 200 000 victims set to benefit.

“Unicef will also expand its support for formal and non-formal education to compensate for learning loss during the COVID-19 lockdowns, while strengthening implementation of safe school protocols in order to ensure schools stay safe and open for in-person learning and prevent renewed closures.”