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Volunteerism help reduce poverty says UN rep
03 December 2007

Harare, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe has great potential to reduce poverty among communities through promoting and supporting volunteer activities as many of its people are willing to donate their valuable time and resources to assist others, United Nations representative said.

Addressing participants to a workshop organised by the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme and the Volunteer Services Overseas in Harare last week, United Nations deputy resident representative Mr Lare Sisay said it was important for Zimbabwe to develop a national framework to guide and regulate volunteer activities in the country.

"The potential for volunteering in Zimbabwe is very high and many people are willing to donate their valuable time and resources to volunteer to assist others," he said.

Mr Sisay said Zimbabwe also had the potential to cope with the HIV and Aids pandemic thorough mobilising volunteers to provide care, treatment and support to people infected and affected by the pandemic.

He noted that thousands of voluntary home-based care givers in Zimbabwe were currently donating their time and effort daily in mitigating the effects of HIV and Aids on patients and families as well as society at large.

It was through the contribution of such selfless people that the country had made remarkable progress in reducing the prevalence rate of the pandemic from more than 34 percent to 15,6 percent over the past five years, he said.

Mr Sisay said recent studies in other countries had revealed that the non-profit sector including volunteers was accounting for around 5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

"This shows the enormous potential volunteer contributions can make on the development of a country," he said.

He said in some countries volunteers were found at all levels of society from community to national with some professionals such as lawyers and medical doctors contributing their services to people who could not afford.

Although expatriates who came to Zimbabwe to work mostly in the areas of education and health soon after independence popularised volunteerism in the country, the concept was not a new phenomenon in the country as communities had a longstanding tradition of assisting the vulnerable in society.

The concept is more widespread in rural areas where children are taught at an early age to view all elderly persons as their parents who should be assisted with household chores.