Page last updated at 02:51 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

MPs raise concern over Zimbabwe children after visit

Child outside shack in Harare
UK assistance is channelled through aid agencies

UK aid to Zimbabwe is reaching the poor and vulnerable but the plight of children in the country remains a serious concern, MPs have said.

The International Development Committee spent four days in the country.

Its report says limited progress has been made since the power-sharing government took office in 2009 with schools and hospitals re-opening.

EU sanctions against President Mugabe are still needed despite South African pressure to scrap them, the MPs say.

Economy 'stabilised'

The MPs say Zimbabwe is in a period of fragile transition.

The cross-party committee describes the present government, in which Morgan Tsvangirai shares power with President Mugabe, as anything but satisfactory.

Mr Mugabe still holds the main levers of power, they conclude.

The report says there is still little prospect of free and fair elections, with political violence and intimidation a major problem.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says the committee paints a picture of continuing intimidation and political violence by President Mugabe's supporters.

But the report acknowledges limited progress and notes the economy, which had been in free fall, has now been stabilised.

It praises the development assistance from the UK, which is deliberately channelled through aid agencies.

The government pledged £60m in aid in 2009.

Aid agencies last year estimated there were more than 1.5 million orphans in Zimbabwe. Many are said to have lost their parents through HIV/Aids, malaria or cholera.

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