26 February 2009A United Nations inter-agency mission to Zimbabwe today stressed that the country’s humanitarian crisis remains grave, and urged both the Government and the international community to support the strengthening of aid efforts. The team, led by UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg, visited the southern African nation from 21 to 25 February to assess responses to, among other things, a food emergency in which up to seven million people need food aid and a cholera epidemic, which has infected some 83,000 people and already claimed more than 3,800 lives. “Despite tremendous efforts by both the Government and the humanitarian community in Zimbabwe to contain the cholera epidemic, major challenges remain,” Ms. Bragg said in a news release issued at the end of the visit. While noting the international community’s generosity to the people of Zimbabwe so far, the team highlighted the need for further resources in the coming months. This includes resources to effectively contain the country’s worst-ever cholera outbreak, including through public health outreach and repairing water and sewage systems.Additional resources will also be crucial for food aid and to help improve food security, noted the team, which included representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).“We have to ensure farmers have all the agriculture inputs they need for the next planting season, which begins in September. If we do not act now, we could end up next year with a situation similar to what we have today,” Ms. Bragg said.While in Harare, the mission met with Government officials, including President Robert Mugabe, who expressed his appreciation for the support Zimbabwe has been receiving from the humanitarian community, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.Mr. Tsvangirai was sworn in earlier this month as Prime Minister in a unity government with President Mugabe, following months of political tensions after disputed presidential elections last March.The mission stressed that the welfare of the people was largely the responsibility of the Government of Zimbabwe. “We trust that the all-inclusive government will quickly take the necessary steps to address the fundamentals of governance that would allow stability and economic recovery,” it stated.