JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Former President Jimmy Carter on Monday said that Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis was far worse than he could have imagined and expressed dismay that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his government refused to acknowledge the problem even existed.
“The entire basic structure in education, health care, feeding people, social services and sanitation has broken down,” Carter said. “These are all indications that the crisis in Zimbabwe is much greater, much worse than we had ever imagined.”
An estimated 4.9 million people in Zimbabwe are desperately in need of food aid, and 300 have died in a cholera epidemic.
Carter was part of a delegation that was denied entry into Zimbabwe last week to assess the crisis. The delegation also included U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Grace Machel, wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
Instead of traveling to Mugabe’s nation, the group held meetings in neighboring South Africa with Zimbabwean refugees and opposition leaders, South African government officials, diplomats and humanitarian agencies.
Citing those briefings, Carter said none of the four main hospitals in Zimbabwe was working and only 20 percent of children were attending school. The main reason was that teachers stopped showing up for work because salaries, about $1 a month, did not even cover their transportation costs.