Graca says Zimbabwe 'progressing'
Harare - The wife of South Africa's Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, praised on Wednesday progress in Zimbabwe since last year's formation of a compromise government to ease a political and economic crisis.
"I have been impressed by the progress made in Zimbabwe," Machel said at a media conference after a two-day mission as part of a United Nations children's fund (Unicef) project.
"The level of commitment by the inclusive government to improve the wellbeing of children under difficult circumstances and with very limited resources is amazing and highly commendable.
"Despite all the challenges, the capacity in this country exists. Whatever challenges, progress is here," she said.
Machel noted in particular improvement in the availability of food and in the education and health sectors.
"Agriculture is being revitalised, you find more and more smallholder families growing food. Agriculture and food production is being revitalised," Machel said.
The UN said in August that about 1.7 million Zimbabweans would require food aid. The country has experienced a decade of acute food shortages, brought on by drought and President Robert Mugabe's crippling land reform programme.
Its political and economic crisis eased last year after political rivals Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai formed a unity government.
The economy has meanwhile stabilised after the government adopted the US dollar after offloading the worthless local dollar.
A new constitution is being drafted to pave way for fresh elections.
Zimbabwe refused entry to Machel and a group of former presidents and world leaders called the Elders who had planned to visit in November 2008 to assess the humanitarian situation.
"The country felt at that time that it was not the right time for us to come," Machel said of the blocked visit. "It is a prerogative of the country to welcome people."
The latest Unicef mission was to assess progress in the promotion of children's rights and to review the constitution-making process.