Beleaguered Zimbabweans can look forward to at least $10 million from Australia – a country with a water crisis of its own. Less than a week after President Obama announced a renewed year of U.S. sanctions for Zimbabwe, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith made public his country’s decision to reinitiate aid. Australia is one of the first nations to commit to rebuilding Zimbabwe’s water, sanitation and health infrastructure.
“The government recognises there are some risks to this approach. We are under no illusions about the fragility of the political situation in Zimbabwe,” Smith said. According to the Associated Free Press, half the money is budgeted for UNICEF’s water-related cholera efforts, while the remaining amount is reserved as pay to enable health workers to treat the sick.
Australia’s decision is inspiring the U.S. to reconsider its position, said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. “We’ve said basically that we want to see how this unity government performs before we can make any type of decision on providing assistance. Humanitarian aid we will continue to provide, but that was clearly a decision taken by the Australian government.”
“Our longer term programs in Zimbabwe have not suffered from any sort of negative inputs from the government at all,” Red Cross Senior Water and Sanitation Officer Robert Fraser told Voice of America. “And we are very pleased that especially at the grassroots level, we’ve had a lot of support and very easy interaction with the Zimbabwe government, and therefore, I think perhaps that some of the press reports are unfair. It is possible to work very well in Zimbabwe with government.”