HARARE — Donors have so far promised less than half of the 718 million dollars (509 million euros) in aid needed to stave off hunger and disease in Zimbabwe, the United Nations said Wednesday.
"Although Zimbabwe is not facing armed conflict, humanitarian threats such as food shortages and the outbreak of diseases such as cholera pose a significant challenge," UN humanitarian coordinator in Zimbabwe, Augustino Zacarias said.
"Sadly, only 44 percent of Zimbabwe's appeal of 718 million had been raised by the end of July."
The United Nations says that six million people have little or no access to safe water and sanitation, which helped spark a devastating cholera epidemic that infected nearly 99,000 people and killed 4,288 over the last year.
An estimated 2.8 million Zimbabweans need food aid, while 1.5 million children require support to access education. The nation's problems are worsened by the high incidence of HIV, which infects 15.6 percent of adults.
Zimbabwe has suffered chronic food shortages since President Robert Mugabe began chaotic land reforms nine years ago, but the crisis worsened dramatically in August last year as a nationwide cholera outbreak erupted.
Zacarias said improved cooperation between Harare and UN agencies has resulted in better access to the neediest people and improved coordination.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai joined his long-time rival Mugabe to form a unity government in February, but has struggled to win donor support to revive an economy shattered by nearly a decade of hyperinflation.
Western countries have so far proved reluctant to give aid directly to the government, demanding that Mugabe undertake more reforms to respect human rights and media freedoms, while curbing politically motivated attacks.