DFID's Assistance to Zimbabwe - International Development Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 21-39)


26 JANUARY 2010

  Q21  Chairman: Can I say welcome to you and thank you very much for coming in. You will probably appreciate that we are slightly pressed for time and one or two colleagues may have to leave. We want to hear from you and if you can be crisp in your answers that would be helpful but please tell us what you think we need to hear. You have been in before and heard what has been going on in the previous session. I will start with what DFID has been doing with its Protracted Relief Programme but, firstly, could you introduce yourself for the record.

  Mr Anderson: I am William Anderson.

  Mr Byworth: I am Justin Byworth from World Vision.

  Mr Rees: I am Rob Rees from CAFOD.

  Q22  Chairman: DFID ran this Protracted Relief Programme I and II which attracted some degree of support. How effective has it been? What have its problems been? What do you think they could or should have learned which might help inform the next stage?

  Mr Anderson: Let me just make a quick point. Overall, I think DFID has a very good programme in Zimbabwe. I think DFID has responded to the needs very well. It has set the agenda for all other donors really, so we should be very proud of what DFID is doing in Zimbabwe in a very difficult situation. The Protracted Relief Programme is the flagship programme of DFID particularly related to secure livelihoods. It is a key part of humanitarian plus, as it were. It is not really relief but it is recovery and in many ways development. We are in the second phase of the PRP. We have had three years and then a review period and now we are in the second three-year period, or possibly five years. I would say that it is an extremely good programme. Other donors really want to come on board and support it. One particular aspect of it, if I can come straight on to that, is conservation agriculture. DFID has supported conservation agriculture since 2002. It has supported a task force in Zimbabwe on conservation agriculture. It has supported a manual that is now out. It has done this to some opposition within Zimbabwe. There were a few agricultural academics who said that conservation agriculture does not work, particularly in the drier parts of the country. These academics have now been proved to be wrong and they have said that this is the best agricultural practice. In that respect, DFID has stuck to their guns and I think it is an excellent agricultural practice that should be promoted across Africa. I would like to see DFID promote that much more.

  Mr Byworth: I agree with everything that William has said. I think PRP is a flagship programme that DFID should be proud of. World Vision and others as partners of that have seen real impact in the lives of communities that we are working with. One particular aspect of it that we welcome is its focus on the vulnerable, including vulnerable children, combined with a focus on livelihoods to lift up the communities, through such things as conservation agriculture, together with safety net and social protection programming to support those who are most vulnerable.

  Q23  Chairman: Could you explain that a bit more, though, because this is in a country where the Government has been crashing around destroying things all over the place. To what extent can they be sure that this sticks? What has been the reaction of the Government to this if then they decide they want to work in an area or displace people? Has that happened or how have they managed to protect it?

  Mr Byworth: Certainly where World Vision is working is at that interface between community and the lowest tier of government, particularly government service deliveries in health and education. In those places obviously in the last 12 months we have seen real progress on that in terms of staff being there and able to deliver those basic services, so certainly we are more hopeful about that now than we were 12 to 18 months ago. Of course the future is uncertain.

  Q24  Chairman: Are there no-go areas, parts of the country you just would not go?

  Mr Byworth: Not for World Vision. We have been working in several parts all around the periphery of the country and we do not have that issue, certainly not recently since the NGO ban, but that was a different matter.

  Mr Rees: I would endorse what they have said about the programme overall. Just a slight comment though on the way that the programme is managed through a contracting agency, GRM. We recognise that DFID needs to minimise transaction costs and save its own costs, but there is a feeling that it increases the distance between civil society organisations that are actually implementing the programme on the ground and the donor. Through the partners that we work with they would like to feel that they have some opportunity for more direct contact with DFID in order to be able to get a better understanding and to ensure that DFID has a good understanding of the situation that they are working in. This applies to a certain extent in the health sector as well. At the time of the cholera crisis DFID gave the funds for the response to cholera all to UNICEF and there were a lot of delays subsequently in the provision of the relief assistance. Generally, we think that there should be some improvements in the means of communication and dialogue between civil society and DFID.

  Chairman: Thank you for that.

  Q25  Richard Burden: On the same area of DFID programmes around agriculture, it is good to hear what you say about the conservation agriculture programme. DFID's work in terms of improving agricultural productivity has also been praised. Are there any ways that you think that that work can be improved upon and built upon for the future? I take your point about GRM as well, about mechanisms for distributing support to small farmers.

  Mr Anderson: The key part of conservation agriculture is teaching people how to better manage their land and how to get a profitable harvest. The national average in Zimbabwe is 0.2 metric tonnes per hectare. For a family of six just to be subsistent they will need 1.2 metric tonnes per annum of grain. The conservation agriculture practice enables households to get at least 2, 3, 5 and in many cases over 10 metric tonnes per hectare. That is in ideal conditions. This then comes to a point where once you have got a good harvest what do you do with that maize, sorghum or millet? That is where we need to address the issue of market because if you cannot sell the maize, in particular, then that household is not able to use it. It is going beyond that and thinking about storage and about markets and about better crops, better grain, more suitable to the areas. People do prefer maize. Sorghum, millet and cassava are promoted by DFID and perhaps it is looking into this as well, how can we get across the idea that for dry areas these are the crops that are much more suitable. DFID is doing this but perhaps they can be nudged in that direction further. It is certainly not off their radar; it is on their radar.

  Mr Byworth: One point to add in terms of building on that, I think it is important also in supporting agricultural development and greater food production to link from that into the area of nutrition. Obviously even where you have higher yields and higher consumption, it does not automatically translate into better nutrition for children and women. There have been examples of other projects, Healthy Harvests for example with UNICEF, where that work has been combined with greater education on good nutritional practice in the home, and certainly World Vision would advocate that a link is made between the agricultural-based programmes with also the child-focused vulnerable programmes to improve child nutrition. The levels of chronic malnutrition and stunting in young adults in Zimbabwe is horrendous. It is huge although the acute wasting malnutrition is not so high. I believe they are just doing a nationwide nutrition survey at the moment and UNICEF and many other agencies are involved in that. We should make the link from agricultural production to nutrition, particularly for children.

  Mr Rees: Conservation farming is aimed at making better use of resources and particularly rainfall, but at the end of the day the overall productivity will depend on a successful rainy season. Just at the moment there is a very big fear that the rains have stopped. There has been a three-week break in the rains in many places and yields are going to be greatly reduced and possibly be in total failure unless they resume. This then adds additional complications because farmers have taken resources, fertilisers and seeds on credit and the question is whether they are going to be expected to repay those loans even though they have no harvest and how they will do that. It raises the issue of land and land ownership, which is quite a critical factor in the matrix.

  Mr Byworth: I think next week some of you will be there. I was there 10 days ago and I saw literally the contrast where the conservation farming had been applied or not in terms of surviving the period without rain. I have not heard good news that there has been rain, but I heard from some farmers and they said last year they had good rains and a better harvest but because of the economic and political situation they did not have access to the inputs; this year they have access to the inputs and now they have no rain.

  Q26  Chairman: The Committee has a reputation for finding the rain.

  Mr Byworth: That is fantastic. The rainmakers!

  Mr Anderson: I have a couple of points, harking back to what was said before. One is about internally displaced persons. That is a term that cannot be used in Zimbabwe by agencies because the Government does not like it—they prefer "mobile vulnerable population"—but DFID has been consistent in its support of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the work that they do with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) should be commended as well. I hope you are going to look at that. It comes on to the point about how they support some of the displaced persons perhaps from Murambatsvina in communities and the existing communities there. Over a period of time the support went just to those displaced persons, which caused conflict and tension in the community. But now through IOM, with DFID support and with other NGOs, the support is more holistic, so lessons have been learned along the way as well, just to add that point. Another point is that at the local government level often the local government really wants the NGOs with DFID support to be there. They will be falling over themselves to get in the NGO support. They really want the support from NGOs. It is very different to the message of the national government. I think that is a key point as well. NGOs were really only banned for those few weeks after the first election in 2008. There was a ban and we were not able to operate but since then, I think across the country, NGOs do have access at the moment. At election time that becomes restricted and few field staff will be able to visit those areas. That is for three or four weeks before the election.

  Q27  Hugh Bayley: As the health system has contracted health needs have increased. What can be done to recruit and retain and, dare I say, repatriate health staff?

  Mr Byworth: That is a very good question. Obviously there is an international dimension on which I do not think myself and World Vision are best-placed to comment in terms of the diaspora, for example, in the UK. Certainly having just been there, I was encouraged that staff—and I visited three health clinics all in southern Matabeleland—had returned to work again in the last 12 months and were being paid and were working. Certainly we have seen an improvement in that. Obviously there is a huge reliance on local community-based volunteers. Whether it is on caring for people living with HIV or whether it is on outreach programmes for children, there is a huge reliance on local volunteers where NGOs like World Vision and others can help link up to the system. Obviously one long-term policy issue we would like to see is access free at the point of service, free at the point of use. Access to health care does not exist and obviously, although economically things are much better now in a dollarized economy, prices, although they have dropped a little in the last couple of months, are still high and the cost both for the recipient and also for staff with salaries the way they are is a struggle. Long-term you need a strong health system top to bottom, but we recognise the constraints in addressing that in terms of government-to-government.

  Q28  Andrew Stunell: If I could just pick up the specifics of the HIV programme where DFID has allocated £40 million over the next five years. Do you think DFID's focus on that is correct? Is it working? What would you say about the programme itself and the outcomes we might expect to see?

  Mr Rees: I would say it is a major priority and DFID does have its level of commitment right. Zimbabwe now has one of the lowest levels of life expectancy of anywhere in Africa. It is 34 years for a male and 37 years for a female, with over one million orphans estimated across the country. I think there are questions, as was mentioned a moment ago, about access to health services since the dollarization. People in rural areas particularly have very limited opportunity for accessing hard currency and therefore have limited access to health services, which then raises a question of access to and distribution of the antiretrovirals (ARVs) and how the costs of distributing those will be covered.

  Q29  Andrew Stunell: What about the vulnerable and marginalised groups?

  Mr Byworth: As you mentioned, particularly the orphans and households made vulnerable by HIV, the scale of it is just immense. DFID has responded well to it. I think the programme of support that they have given through UNICEF has been very well received and well used. I think it is completing later this year in 2010, so we would certainly encourage DFID to look at continuing that. Rob mentioned earlier that UNICEF in terms of an intermediary and a grant-making body to NGOs and civil society has not been set up to do that as efficiently, say, as GRM have done for the PRP, so I think they either need some support to get better—we have had all kinds of problems with procurement through them—or look at an alternative intermediary. We certainly support what UNICEF is doing there and the DFID work with UNICEF. Although HIV prevalence rates have reduced, the numbers of orphans and those affected has increased, so it is going to be many years that this needs to be continued for.

  Mr Rees: Within the work that we do under PRP with DFID support we try to prioritise families and communities that are affected by HIV, so single-parent families particularly and those mothers who are HIV positive will be given preferential treatment and access to support through that programme. It is a matter of targeting assistance to try to encourage and maintain self-reliance within the family and within the community because the problem is so big that institutions are not the response.

  Q30  Andrew Stunell: Compared to other African countries, the amount of aid going in for HIV projects appears to be lower. Is that a function of the instability or is there government resistance or have we just not got round to it?

  Mr Anderson: Lower than what? I think one of the reasons why there is not a huge amount of money is because of some of the large foundations, for example the Bill Gates Foundation and PEPFAR[5], which are supporting Zimbabwe at the moment. In terms of the priority of HIV/AIDS, it is a huge issue and DFID is right to concentrate on it. Coming back to the prevalence, it was about 25% five years ago and it has now come down to about 16%. That is attributed partly due to behaviour change, and I think DFID's role in that can be evidenced. It is also partly due to the number of people who have died. There are 3,000 people dying every week from AIDS-related illnesses. In terms of the actual support, there is also an organisation called Population Services International (PSI). Again that is with USAID so DFID has done well to co-ordinate its funding of that with another large donor. I think that is a good programme as well. I am not qualified to talk about it but it is something you can certainly look into. There is an Extended Support Programme which is considerable in Zimbabwe. They work through the Government, the Ministry of Health, as well as large UN agencies and larger NGOs. Again that is a huge programme that I am not qualified to talk about but I would suggest you look into it as well. In terms of the priority of HIV, it is a huge issue and they are right to do that.

  Mr Byworth: We certainly have not come across the social stigma that was there some years ago or a "head in the sand" political mentality about this. That has not been an issue that we have encountered locally. Programmes are able to be effective there but the need is huge. There is a great link with cross-border migration as well, with South Africa particularly, which complicates things.

  Q31  Mr Sharma: In the last few years the child mortality rate has increased. What are the main causes of that and illness in the country and how do you then go about addressing these issues?

  Mr Rees: I think it is a combination of factors reflecting the chaos that has prevailed within the country and within the primary health care sector: the reduction of the number of medical staff, the trained nurses and doctors who have left the country, so there are not the personnel on the ground to provide the services; lack of basic supplies; the inability of the poorer sectors of the community to be able to pay for the services. Especially pre-dollarization where prices were going up by the minute, then it was a very difficult situation for anybody to plan ahead for and to be able to make the necessary allowances in terms of their own personal expenditure.

  Mr Byworth: Certainly under-five child mortality is an absolute top priority. World Vision has a global campaign on that at the moment to try and reduce the 8.8 million child deaths each year, to try and reduce the 6 million or so of those which are largely preventable. Certainly in Zimbabwe the major childhood killers are there to see—diarrhoea, respiratory infections, malaria, et cetera. Poor hygiene and access to water and sanitation is a major factor. Poor nutrition is a major contributing factor underlying the vulnerability which leads from not getting access to health care. When you do not get access to health care it has more damaging effects. Certainly we would like to see a redoubling of focus on both the maternal and child health Millennium Development Goals not just for Zimbabwe but for all countries where child mortality is high. There are about 30 what we call "high burden" countries which have the largest percentage and largest number of children under five who die. Zimbabwe needs to be right up there with a big strong focus on it, both through strengthening health systems and community-based measures. A lot of times with child mortality it is simple, community-based preventative measures such as re-hydration for diarrhoea and those types of things that are proven to reduce mortality. If you look at Malawi just across the border, child mortality has improved significantly in the last few years in contrast to Zimbabwe and a few places like Kenya. It gets strong investment but it needs to be both community-based and also health strengthening. DFID is well placed on that at a policy level through the International Health Partnership they have been promoting A bit of a stronger capacity for DFID in country in Zimbabwe on health would be good. They are not as strong as perhaps they might be.

  Mr Anderson: It is due to the breakdown of Zimbabwean society and the social services structures. It is as basic as that.

  Q32  Mr Sharma: You did mention that poor child health is due to malnutrition. How effective has the food aid programme been in tackling it?

  Mr Anderson: Food aid now through the World Food Programme has been going on for eight years and there are very good things in that it has stopped people from dying. It has operated during the hunger gap period from around November/December to around March/April when the harvests come in. I would say it has saved lives. In terms of how we can improve that, I would suggest that there are areas that WFP should be looking at and nudged by DFID, particularly food for work, because simple food aid for eight years on the trot does induce dependency on food aid and people perhaps might decide just to take the bag of food at the end of the month rather than try to grow their own food. There are also things like issuing worm tablets. It is a very simple operational activity to issue worm tablets with the food aid. There are lots of other things that could be done like that to support the food aid. In general, I think the World Food Programme could be held a little bit more to account by DFID. NGOs are under strict accountable measures through the GRM and the TLC. The TLC is very good and they have certainly improved the capacity of international and national NGOs in particular. It would be nice to see a bit more accountability for UN structures as well.

  Mr Byworth: World Vision has partnered with the World Food Programme and also the USAID food programme as significant suppliers of food aid for the whole of that period, so certainly we can attest first-hand to lives being saved through that, but we would also agree that with conditions economically improving, there needs to be a move (which has happened) to greater targeting of the most vulnerable because even if you move away from general food distributions, which has not yet happened and probably cannot yet happen fully but needs to happen over the coming years, you are going to still need some targeted food assistance for particularly vulnerable groups. Yes, there will need to be a move towards more livelihood-based use of food such as food for work and to combine that with agricultural development programmes to reduce dependency. I would not say it is time to stop yet but it is time to start the transition to a more targeted and more livelihoods-based approach. Definitely that transition needs to happen. DFID's view on that has been largely correct. Even in the PRP they are pushing for a more economically viable approach to recovery now, which again the conditions allow for more now than they did 12 or 18 months ago.

  Q33  John Battle: Just as infant mortality is rising maternal mortality is rising as well and DFID has taken some actions to try and decrease the rising rate of maternal mortality. Is it successful? Is it helping?

  Mr Byworth: Not sure is the answer.

  Mr Anderson: I do not know but just as an anecdote, private hospitals were extremely good in Zimbabwe but even in private hospitals now, due to the collapse of the system, there are not enough medicines to go around, certainly not enough staff, so even if you wanted private expensive medical care in Zimbabwe you might be thinking about going down to Johannesburg. At the community level/communal level outside of these private hospitals you have very little to support you.

  Mr Byworth: Certainly World Vision is not as involved with maternal health except in as much as the link with that and child and neonatal health particularly. I know the number of women having deliveries at home is very high. Up until the last couple of years it is 40% or something like that. The number of skilled birth attendants is not enough and access because of distances to travel are difficult. Again anecdotally, I saw women come for ante-natal check-ups just 10 days ago at a clinic in Matabeleland, and there was a women who had had a baby two years before, and she contrasted that experience with the child that she had with her of four months on her knee and she talked about the difference of both access for delivery at the health centre more recently and also access to immunisation and child monitoring. She talked of a real difference and a real improvement between her second child who was a baby and her first child who was two/two and half. That is anecdotal. In terms of DFID's impact I do not have any evidence.

  Q34  John Battle: DFID themselves highlight the high rate of contraceptive use in Zimbabwe. Has that made a big difference?

  Mr Byworth: It links to PSI perhaps.

  Mr Anderson: I do not know the PSI programme.

  Mr Byworth: They talk about the high rate of female condom usage in Zimbabwe more than almost any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, I believe, but I do not have any first-hand evidence of that.

  Q35  Hugh Bayley: What were the causes of the cholera outbreak last year? Are you expecting another outbreak this year? What should DFID be supporting in terms of promoting better public health and hygiene?

  Mr Anderson: Cholera has always been in Zimbabwe. Every year there are a number of deaths. This year seven people have died officially from cholera. Last year was an epidemic waiting to happen really. It was the result again of the breakdown of social services, very bad sanitation in high-density suburban areas and very poor living conditions. It was going to happen really and it was talked about at various humanitarian agency co-ordination strategy working groups even before it broke out. We were discussing it before it happened so we knew it was coming, in a way. In terms of what DFID could do further, it is all about community-based improvement of sanitation at the moment because local government do not have the funding to improve these services. DFID needs to work out how—and you talked about it in the earlier session as well—to support local government in that and how to support the community in that.

  Mr Rees: In the longer term there has to be major rehabilitation of the infrastructure. Community-based responses really are just short-term measures, particularly in densely populated areas like Harare and the suburbs. It is a project for the future to rehabilitate both the sewerage and water supply systems which will then provide the protection that will be needed.

  Q36  Hugh Bayley: I can see the need for the immediate response and I can see that that is possible now but what political conditions would you need for major infrastructure projects to be viable?

  Mr Rees: It will be dependent upon economic recovery within the country and, as William alluded to, the financial resources being committed by the national government, whether it is from its own internally generated income or whether it is through aid packages after the resumption of normal aid and financial support from the international financial institutions. As I say, that is an issue to be dealt with in the future when those basic economic and political questions have been addressed.

  Q37  Hugh Bayley: Can I ask a slightly wider question. It is a chicken and egg situation, is it not? If you wait until conditions are right, conditions will never be right. Politics is about a process of moving from the dire position you are in to a better position. How does the nexus of aid and politics help you? In other words, should you be planning this now and how would you plan it now? Should you be telling a big infrastructure player like the EU to put together a programme? How do you get to a position where you can improve infrastructure in a relatively near timescale?

  Mr Anderson: There is a recovery plan and DFID was part of producing that. It was based on the Hague Principles in October 2007 and then a major donor meeting in Ottawa last year. It is all to do with, as we were discussing in the first session, whether the Government of Zimbabwe is really there for its people or there for itself. Unless that has been addressed, that is a fundamental issue where, no matter what is poured in, it might not work, it might not be targeted, it might be liable for corruption. In terms of improving these services, yes, DFID has to work as far as it can but make sure that there are certain benchmarks which they have already got in writing that are met. At this time the Hague Principles are not met and most of those benchmarks are not being met and so therefore withhold the funding and hopefully if these benchmarks are starting to be met then release some of the funding but, yes, it is very difficult.

  Q38  Andrew Stunell: Can we just take a look at education and children. The DFID allocation is 2% of aid going to education. There has been talk about schools getting back to work and so on and yet there are clearly some priority areas. Could you just comment on the amount of money that DFID is allocating and the effectiveness of what it is doing. Are we short of teachers? Are we short of buildings? Are we short of security? What do you see as being the problems or perhaps there are not any problems?

  Mr Rees: All of the above, I would say. There is a shortage of teachers. Along with health professionals many teachers have migrated out of the country. I heard an interesting report that some of the best education in the countries around Zimbabwe is provided in schools where there are Zimbabwe exiled teachers. In the past Zimbabwe had a very high standard of education and a very high standard of teaching. Quite rightly it was proud of it. As with health professionals, some system and some opportunities need to be created to bring those professionals back into Zimbabwe to support the schools. There needs to be investment in schools and in school materials in the same way that there needs to be investment in primary health care facilities as well, particularly in the rural areas.

  Q39  Andrew Stunell: So do you think this is something which can come through the state or DFID can only contribute through the state? In terms of the amount being given, 2% of DFID's money is going to education; is that about right, is it too much or too little?

  Mr Anderson: I do not know. In terms of the Ministry of Education, it is run by David Coltart at the moment. He was the only MDC MP not to accept a brand new Mercedes Benz when he took office. He is trying to drive out corruption but again his hands are in effect tied to a large extent because of the political deadlock between ZANU-PF and the MDC. He is also completely tied by the fact that teachers are not paid so they want to go to South Africa and get a proper salary. I do not know whether the 2% is right or not but it is certainly a huge area.

  Mr Rees: I do not think there is any country in Africa where there is enough investment in education. There is always a need for more.

  Mr Anderson: I think in 1980 ZANU-PF said that they were going to provide free primary education. We have not seen that to date.

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