Sanitation in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa that lies between the Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers with a population of 14.86 million. In the 20th century, Zimbabwe’s sanitation infrastructure was quite stable, but due to economic collapse resulting from the loss of public sector and donor investments in the early 2000s, the country’s sanitation development came to a halt and it began to degrade. Thousands of people living in Zimbabwe’s urban and rural areas lost access to not only clean drinking water, but also proper sanitation. Zimbabwe’s constitution states that every person has the right to “safe, clean, and potable water,” but the country still has a lot of work to do to make that statement come true. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Zimbabwe.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Zimbabwe

  1. Water coverage has been increasing since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Water coverage has increased from 32 percent to 56 percent in the 20 years after the nation gained independence. This increase in coverage has also directly improved overall sanitation access, from 28 percent to 56 percent. Two main elements propelled the growth of the country’s sanitation infrastructure: interest in urban and commercial farming and implementation of innovative technologies by the Integrated Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (IRWSSP). Both endeavors helped drive urban sanitation coverage to 90 percent up until the late 1990s when the economic crisis caused the coverage to decline.
  2. The rural sanitation infrastructure is still vastly underdeveloped. When comparing the rural system to the urban infrastructure of sanitation in Zimbabwe, flushing toilets, running water and access to clean drinking water is uncommon in rural areas. The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 66 percent of the population in more affluent areas of Zimbabwe has access to basic sanitation, while only 13 percent of the population in poor areas has basic sanitation access. Further, while Zimbabwe’s population does receive a small number of subsidies from the government to improve sanitation, 80 percent goes to the urban, more wealthy areas.
  3. Studies prove sanitation in Zimbabwe’s rural areas is significantly worse. According to a 2017 report by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), 91.5 percent of urban households have properly flushing toilets, while just 36.8 percent of households in rural areas are without toilets. These rural areas do not have reliable access to water pipelines, and therefore, most of the population relies on open defecation. A Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey study estimated that 42 percent of the rural population in Zimbabwe still uses open defecation. In order to bring the rural areas up to the standards of the urban areas, the government would need to spend $90 million per year on sanitation hardware.
  4. In 2010, the Zimbabwe National Action Committee created its Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector. WASH has helped to combine Zimbabwe’s urban and rural sanitization efforts to gain a more organized action plan on how to improve sanitation, restore leadership throughout urban and rural areas, institutionalize government responsibilities and support sector development. So far, WASH has aided in the doubling of water production in 14 small towns, worked with UNICEF to drill boreholes, creating access to more water. The WASH program has also worked on the Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (PHHE) initiative, supporting 432 sanitation action groups and 388 health clubs.
  5. Sanitation in Zimbabwe currently aims to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The government recently approved a gender-sensitive Sanitation and Hygiene Policy that aims to ensure Zimbabwe is defecation free by 2030. To achieve this goal, the Sanitation Focused on Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (SafPHHE) has been implemented throughout 45 rural districts in Zimbabwe. SafPHHE will produce a framework to improve sustainable and reliable sanitation services. By spreading awareness of good hygiene behavior and increasing sanitation coverage, open defecation rates should reduce in accordance with the SDGs.
  6. Australian aid has been supporting efforts to improve sanitation in Zimbabwe. CARE, an Australian-based international aid organization, works around the world but is also helping communities in Zimbabwe to build toilets and hand-washing facilities. About 6,671 students now have access to 2,870 new toilets with handwashing facilities in schools and villages in Zimbabwe.
  7. Feminine hygiene and sanitation in Zimbabwe are sub-par. Many girls and women in Zimbabwe, ages 15 to 29 years old, do not have access to proper sanitary wear, or Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). This lack of feminine hygiene poses health risks not only to women but also to their communities. Girls miss four to five days of school because of menstrual cycles, according to CARE. According to an article published by Jamba, MHM is clouded in cultural taboos, constraints and unhygienic practices that further cause health-related dangers for women and girls. 
  8. Households in Zimbabwe rely on donor-drilled boreholes for the water supply. While these boreholes do supply water, they are typically highly unsanitary. Specifically, cholera broke out in 2018, killing 30 people. Further, people sometimes use the boreholes as extortion for financial gain, or otherwise access the water.
  9. Local and national corruption further exacerbate the issue of sanitation in Zimbabwe. In the capital city of Harare, the water management system charges residents for water even though the water does not run properly and is contaminated. Further, the government admits that it does not use the revenue to maintain and improve the quality of the water. The Export-Import Bank of China provided Zimbabwe’s government a $144 million loan with no results in sanitation improvements. According to the Human Rights Watch, solutions include the government using a sliding-scale for the residents’ water supply cost and investing in sanitation and water strategies, such as building toilets, pit latrines and uncontaminated boreholes.
  10. In 2014, Zimbabwe’s government made a public pledge to create and sustain a sanitation and hygiene policy. The government anticipates improvements aligned with the SDGs by keeping rural water supply functioning long-term, improving the reliability of the urban water supply, rehabilitating public latrines, emptying the latrines when they are full and reusing wastewater. It was the plan to achieve the goals by 2015, but with clear corruption and without proper funding, it may take some time for Zimbabwe to reach its goals.

Zimbabwe has an intense need for sanitation improvements in both urban and rural areas of the country. These 10 facts outline the current reality of sanitation in Zimbabwe. In aiming to achieve the SDGs and more, the country can change in a way to allow people to lead healthy and safe lives.

– Marlee Septak
Photo: Unsplash

The Salvation Army's Efforts in Zimbabwe
For generations, the Salvation Army has been an international movement of evangelism, goodwill and charity. As part of the Protestant denomination in Christianity, the organization holds more than 1.6 million members throughout 109 countries around the world. Originating in the U.K., there are over 800 parishes, 1,500 ordained ministers and 54,000 members in England. Motivated by the love of God, the organization’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet the needs of humans whom hardships have struck. Most recently, The Salvation has been working in Zimbabwe. The Salvation Army’s efforts in Zimbabwe have involved providing communities and schools with proper sanitation.

In 1865, pastor William Booth and his wife, Catherine, began preaching to London’s neglected poor. William’s dynamic presence of natural leadership and charismatic oration grabbed the attention of the congregation. At the same time, Catherine pioneered advocacy for women’s rights in the Christian community. Subsequently, the couple embraced the Christian Mission and quickly offered the destitute meals, clothes and lodging. When others joined the Booths to assist with their corporal works, the Christian Mission became an almost overnight success. In 1878, this success transformed into the organization known today as the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army Expansion

With substantial growth in motion, there was a militant approach to the newfound identity, like integrating uniforms for ministers and members. In addition, the Salvation Army began introducing flags and employee rankings. This gave the members an opportunity to embrace the “spiritual warfare” mentality.

As a result of the militarization-like growth, the organization began to spread to the United States in 1880, where the first branch opened in Pennsylvania. Through time, the Salvation Army played a pivotal role in the lives of the misfortunate, especially during the Great Depression.

Branches began opening around the world to establish evangelical centers, substance abuse programs, social work and community centers. The organization even opened used goods stores and recreation facilities to support community welfare.

International Impact

Currently, The Salvation Army supports emergency response initiatives throughout underprivileged countries in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Most recent works include providing food, water and materials to rebuild homes in Zimbabwe after flooding in Tshelanyamba Lubhangwe.

Additionally, it has launched a new plan to aid issues with water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. With nearly 20 percent of the world’s population lacking access to clean water and one out of every three people without basic sanitation needs, obtaining clean drinking water can be challenging in Zimbabwe. More than half of the water supply systems do not function properly and as a result, many boreholes and wells contain water that is unsafe to drink, making them nonpotable for villagers and farmers. People are experiencing outbreaks of diseases that have led to avoidable deaths due to unclean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe, and/or little knowledge of self-sanitation care. Some schools are even on the verge of closing due to the posing health threat to Zimbabwe’s youth.

WASH Initiative in Zimbabwe

The Salvation Army adopted the WASH project to improve health and nutrition in 12 communities by advancing water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. WASH, which stands for Water, Sanitation and Health, supports more than 50,000 people living in Zimbabwe, including more than 11,000 children attending school. Introducing accountability for the intertwining relationships of water, sewage, nutrition and health, Zimbabwe now has access to sustainable water and sanitation facilities.

The Salvation Army’s efforts in Zimbabwe have stretched to installing toilets, sinks and clean water in schools, allowing them to remain open. Furthermore, school hygiene committees have visited schools to give teachers the proper training about hygiene, health care and clean food. Each of these 12 communities have also set up farm gardens and irrigation systems. This has allowed areas to take back autonomy over food sources and will ultimately reduce the chances of consuming contaminated food, leading to foodborne illness.

UNICEF Joins the Salvation Army in Zimbabwe

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has also joined the Salvation Army’s efforts in Zimbabwe to help people access water and sanitation by drilling boreholes and pipe schemes for water systems. In addition, the WASH program saw vast improvements in repairing the sewer systems in 14 communities followed by the sustainability of those systems through the strength and development of its national public-private strategic framework.

UNICEF has also supported the improvement of water and sanitation in Zimbabwe through approval of hygiene and sanitation policy with the focus of ending open defecation in the country by the year 2030, specifically for gender-sensitive citizens. Efforts like policy implementation directly align with the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, UNICEF has supported the Sanitation Focused Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (SafPHHE) in over 40 rural districts in Zimbabwe to accomplish the end of open defecation.

The Salvation Army has aimed to improve the quality of life for the underprivileged with the message of a strong belief in God and that every individual should have access to basic human rights. The Salvation Army’s efforts in Zimbabwe and around the world have provided aid through consistent outreach to the less fortunate. The organization started out with the motivation to save souls and has grown to steer the directionless down a path to righteousness and out of poverty. With endeavors like improving water and sanitation in Zimbabwe, organizations like the Salvation Army and UNICEF have greatly improved lives throughout poor countries.

– Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

Droughts in Zimbabwe
Temperatures in southern Africa are notable for their fluctuation which commonly causes climate disasters. These disasters are particularly devastating to Zimbabwe’s rural population of approximately 16 million people and its substantial community of farmers. The country’s landscape has suffered significant damage from unprecedented weather, particularly droughts. Efforts to scale up governmental assistance have skyrocketed since January 2019, which has accounted for much of the rise in the price of basic commodities. Below is a brief history of droughts in Zimbabwe, the many implications that they cause and the solutions that different aid efforts have come to.

History of Drought

Zimbabwe has a long history of droughts, which have cumulatively caused an increase in poverty. On a regional scale, droughts often result in crop failure, loss of livestock and wildlife and power outages. A report from the World Food Programme indicates that as of 2019, an estimated 2.3 million people suffered from poverty as a result of the country’s worst hunger crisis thus far. Citizens turn to government officials to assist in food shortages, and while weather within the region is a determining factor in food production, it is mostly up to different organizations to provide varied forms of food security.

The country’s worst drought happened in 1992, which many consider the most destructive one Zimbabwe faced in the 20th century. Water shortages forced the shutdown of many industries and schools. Due to poor harvests that year, regions across southern Africa faced a short-term supply in their food reserves. Zimbabwe’s food shortages caused a ripple effect, with aggravated food production compromising foods like corn to countries like Mozambique, which relied on Zimbabwe’s exports. Due to low rainfall, communal area farmers did not have any suitable locations for food production.

Solutions and Aid

Shortly after the regional drought, the humanitarian agency Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) worked with Zimbabwe in order to build developmental programs that would increase accessibility to clean water and food. Programs that pilot cleaner VIP latrines, reinforce sexual and reproductive health and develop financial advocacy should increase household income, alleviate food insecurity and improve better access to markets.

In 2016, Zimbabwe declared a drought disaster as an estimated five million people faced food shortages. Shifts in weather patterns were a direct result of El Nino and La Nina, which refer to the periodic changes in sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

The International Rescue Committee works to alleviate many of the economic struggles in Zimbabwe. Started in 2008 after a devastating cholera outbreak, the organization provides support to those afflicted by natural disasters. It will extend its strategy action plan to 2020, continuing to transfer direct cash transfers to low-income households, provide vouchers to farmers, assist in getting more food for livestock, deliver medical and emergency supplies, drill deeper wells and rehabilitate water plants.

The World Food Programme also plans to assist up to two million people in 2020. By March 2020, predictions determine that nearly 59 percent of rural households—5.5 million people—will be food insecure or in poverty. An estimated $173 million is necessary to allocate support to these regions. Many are saying that the hunger crisis will peak during the first three months of 2020, which is elevating the level of urgency for funding.

Recent Drought

Zimbabwe experienced another drought in December 2019, which ignited the worst hunger crisis the country has faced in nearly a decade. It has entered a “Phase 3” food crisis, which is just two steps below large-scale famine. Predictions estimate that this will extend into 2020, as poor macro-economy and germination rates continually affect crop production. In November 2019, farmers received only 55 percent of normal rainfall. Livestock losses have reached 2.2 million people in urban areas and 5.5 million in rural ones. An emergency operation is underway by the World Food Programme in order to assist the 7.7 million people who plunged into hunger. Partnerships with UNICEF and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are leading to more international efforts for resilience programs.

Implications of Drought

These droughts carry many logistical implications, leading to economic struggles as inflation rates go up, farmers undergo crop failure and food supplies grow scarce. Clean water, medical supplies and nourishing foods have become inaccessible and render much of the population food insecure and poverty-stricken.

Droughts in Zimbabwe hold many implications for the country’s current hunger crisis. Varying aid efforts are slowly pushing the region to a progressive standpoint. The limitations of food security, when it comes to natural hazards like droughts, illustrate a need to offer more aid to regions stricken by climate disasters. Efforts to mobilize aid in southern African are essential to curbing economic decline and creating sustainable communities.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

The Elders' Advocacy in Africa
Created in 2007 by former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, The Elders is an independent group of global leaders that work together for social justice and human rights. The organization promotes advocacy through several different avenues including supporting ethical leadership and multilateral cooperation, assisting conflict countries and regions, enacting interventions for global health coverage and working with governmental leaders to enact justice for citizens. For its current activities, The Elders’ advocacy in Africa is particularly notable.

Girls Not Brides Organization

In 2011, The Elders created the Girls Not Brides organization, dedicated to ending child marriage practices. The organization is based in 100 countries and became an independent charity in 2013. The Elders member, Graca Machel, is co-founder and champion for Girls Not Brides. The organization’s efforts to improve the lives of women extends through the Elders’ advocacy work in Africa.

The African Union joined Girls Not Brides to support ending child marriages and initiated a campaign in 2014 that extended to 2017. The African Union’s and Girls Not Brides’ comradery resulted in 22 countries supporting their initiatives. By December 2017, these countries included Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, The Gambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. 

Advocacy in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe became part of the African Union’s campaign towards ending child marriages in Africa in 2015. Through its efforts, the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court banned marriages under the age of 18. Prior to the impact of Girl Not Brides in 2016, one in three girls or 31 percent married before the age of 18. In addition, 4 percent of girls married before the age of 15.

The Zimbabwean government held to its new principles, recognizing 18 as the minimum age for marriage. The Customary Marriages Act in Zimbabwe, which previously had no minimum age requirement, restricted legal marriage to 18 years of age in 2016. In 2016, the Zimbabwean courts also revoked provisions that permitted teenage girls to marry with their parents’ consent. According to a study by the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health survey in 2015, 77 percent of women between ages 15 and 19 were unmarried in Zimbabwe versus the 17 percent that were married. Through Girls Not Brides, the Elders’ advocacy in Africa helped extend to specifically benefiting girls in Zimbabwe.

Advocacy in South Africa

Beyond Girls Not Brides, The Elders’ advocacy in Africa also extends to supporting South African health reforms. On September 6, 2019, The Elders’ chair, Grace Machel, backed health reforms in South Africa on behalf of the organization. The National Health Insurance (NHI) reforms are being proposed by the current President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, to “improve publicly funded health care and build social solidarity.” The Washington Post cites that 84 percent of South Africa’s 59 million people lack medical insurance, further highlighting the need for reforms.

The South African news source, News24, describes that under NHI reforms, the government will implement a package of health services. The package includes health services for free at both private and public medical facilities. Health care could then be more accessible with state control.

The Impact of Personal Experience

The Elders supports these reforms as a chance for South Africa to create equality in its health care systems and reduce the corruption of private insurance schemes. The promotion of universal health coverage from The Elders comes from a place of experience in its home countries. Richard Lagos, former President of Chile, and Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway, spoke out about universal health coverage reforms and the benefits to their respective countries after periods of dictatorship. Lagos and Brundtland commented, while giving speeches in South Africa, that universal health coverage is key in rebuilding civic life. The advising of the South African government comes from personal experience, hoping to better the lives of South African citizens.  News24 cites that the NH1 reforms plan to go into effect by March 2020.

Overall, The Elders’ advocacy in Africa highlights the improvements made for citizens through the creation of Girls Not Brides. However, meetings and support for African governments bring positive change. This highlights the effectiveness and reasoning of why its meetings with African leaders are vital. Through The Elders’ efforts, Africa gains both concrete developments to help girls and provide support from a place of wisdom.

Natalie Casaburi
Photo: Pixabay

Breastfeeding in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is an African country located in the southern region of the continent. It has beautiful landscapes and wildlife that attract many people every year, but the country is still intensely poverty-stricken. In fact, it is one of the poorest nations in the world with a whopping 70 percent of the entire nation living under the poverty line.Many of the downsides that come with poverty are present in the country, but one downside that people often do not consider is how poverty affects breastfeeding in Zimbabwe. While people often see breastfeeding as a natural process that even the poorest populations do, breastfeeding is limited in Zimbabwe. About 66.8 percent of Zimbabwean women exclusively breastfed their newborns between the first six months of life with only 32 percent starting breastfeeding within the first day of life. In a country of malnourished people and food scarcity, this article will explore why women do not frequently breastfeed in Zimbabwe.

The Reason Women Do Not Breastfeed in Zimbabwe

One can attribute the lack of exclusive breastfeeding in Zimbabwe to a set of issues that include low education, low income and traditional practices as well as the country having a patriarchal society. Women said what they were only comfortable exclusively breastfeeding for the first three months of their child’s life and this directly relates to the fact that there is intense pressure from in-laws to include different foods in their babies’ diets which stems from long uninformed traditions. With little to no support from the male partner, mothers can find it difficult to resist this pressure.

In combination with these factors, there is also the simple fact that many Zimbabwean women suffer extreme malnourishment. Some reports also stated that many mothers who did not engage in exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first three months of life were simply unable to produce enough milk to fully nourish their babies.

The Effect On Zimbabwean Babies

Zimbabwe has an infant mortality rate of 50 deaths per 1,000 births. For perspective, the infant mortality rate in the United States is five deaths per 1,000 births. Reports determined that 10 percent of all mortality in children aged 5 years was because of non-exclusive breastfeeding at the beginning of life, which is quite significant.

In conjunction with this high infant mortality rate, there is also chronic malnutrition and stunting. Approximately 27 percent of children under the age of 5 in Zimbabwe suffer from chronic malnutrition. Stunting also occurs in Zimbabwean children but varies by region from 19 percent to 31 percent.

There is a correlation between education and breastfeeding in Zimbabwe as well. People have observed a connection between education and breastfeeding not only in the patterns of the mother but also in how it affects her children.

Solutions

Some are making efforts to bring more awareness and education to the people of Zimbabwe. One of these efforts is the initiation of World Breastfeeding Week which representatives from WHO, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Child Care launched due to concerns about the low exclusive breastfeeding rates. Only 48 percent of babies below the age of 6 months received exclusive breastfeeding at the time of this event which is significantly lower than the 66.8 percent in 2019.

The improved statistics show that efforts to combat the misinformation and societal pressures among Zimbabwean women to improve rates of exclusive breastfeeding are working. While poverty negatively affects breastfeeding in Zimbabwe, others are slowly combating it.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Pixabay

Mental Health in the Developing World
According to the World Health Organization, the number of people diagnosed with a mental health disease has increased by 40 percent in the last 30 years. Poverty has been well-established as a driving force behind mental illnesses in the developing world. The Mental Health Foundation reports that 23 percent of men and 26 percent of women among the lowest socioeconomic class are at high risk of mental health problems. However, Psychiatric Times reports that many psychiatrists receive little training on intervening and addressing poverty and its relationship to mental disorders. The nonprofit Grand Challenges Canada is improving mental health in the developing world by funding innovations and expanding access to mental health care.

Mental Health in the Developing World By the Numbers

According to Grand Challenges Canada, 75 percent of the global burden from mental disorders is in developing countries. In addition, a World Health Organization report reveals some cogent statistics about the relationship between poverty and mental health:

  1. Depression is 1.5 to 2 times higher among low-income individuals.
  2. Common mental disorders are more prevalent for people living in poor and overcrowded housing.
  3. People with the lowest socioeconomic status have eight times more relative risk for schizophrenia than those of a higher socioeconomic status.
  4. People experiencing hunger or facing debts are more likely to suffer from common mental disorders.
  5. Evidence indicates the relationship between poverty and poor mental health is cyclical. Grand Challenges Canada is committed to ending the poverty-mental illness feedback loop.

Grand Challenges Canada

According to its website, Grand Challenges Canada has given 159,000 individuals access to mental health treatment. The organization’s project portfolio entails 85 projects in 31 countries and estimates that by 2030, the number of individuals impacted will be between 1.1 million to 3.2 million. Global Challenges Canada has influenced 17 mental health policies in various countries.

One example of Grand Challenges Canada improving mental health in the developing world is The Friendship Bench project in Zimbabwe. In 2012, Grand Challenges Canada funded a controlled study of more than 500 individuals with depression in the country. The patients involved received six 45-minute cognitive behavioral therapy sessions with a lay health worker, one of which took place in the individual’s home. The study found the prevalence of depression throughout program participants after treatment was less than 10 percent versus the approximate 33 percent of non-participants. The program has now spread to more than 70 clinics in Zimbabwe’s three largest cities.

In Vietnam, Grand Challenges Canada partnered with the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population to develop the Smart Care project. The focus of the campaign centers around early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to enable the best circumstances for children with the disorder. The program is based on a mobile platform, which includes apps to support screening and home-based intervention, a model of pilot screening development and health checkups for children with ASD.

Grand Challenges Canada is improving mental health in the developing world through the funding of technologies that vastly expand access to care. In 2016 and 2017, the organization invested over CA$42 million in projects to mitigate mental disorders. By 2030, Grand Challenges Canada expects to have seen symptomatic improvement in 297,000 to 844,000 individuals involved in projects.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr

roads in Zimbabwe

In developing countries like Zimbabwe where more than 67 percent of the population lives in rural areas, adequate roadways are essential for communities in the countryside to have access to education, jobs and health care. However, even those city roads in Zimbabwe that are paved, are filled with potholes while others have totally washed away. Rural areas have largely remained unlinked by asphalt roads, and the Zimbabwean government has historically lacked the necessary funds to launch an infrastructure overhaul that would not only maintain urban roads but also expand the transportation network to rural areas as well.

Road Improvements

However, improvements for roads in Zimbabwe are now underway. Extensive infrastructure developments have begun as of February 2019 to create more adequate highways to facilitate increases in traffic and create a safer environment for drivers. These developments will help ensure the quicker movement of goods and people across the region and are expected to help spur further economic development in the country. Regional connectivity will also improve, as the project has been planned in conjunction with Mozambique and South Africa. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already opened the newly-refurbished Tanganda-Ngundu Highway that connects the eastern part of Zimbabwe to South Africa.

The revamping of these roads is in line with Vision 2030 — a development initiative launched by the Zimbabwean government to upgrade the country to an upper-middle-class economy by 2030. The project has already created a spike in employment due to the rapid infrastructure overhaul construction operations, reflected in the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) minister’s statement calling everyone who wants money to come help build the roads, “Those who are ready to work on the roads come and get your money.”

While the renovation of highways and other essential roads in Zimbabwe is of utmost importance, rural communities are seeing significantly less attention. But that does not mean they are forgotten. In January 2019, the Zimbabwean government expressed interest with local officials of Kanyemba to expand updated roads to the rural province. Kanyemba is a largely underdeveloped province in northern Zimbabwe, and under the new infrastructure developments, the province officially received township status.

Looking Forward

With the expected economic growth after the road infrastructure improvements have been completed, rural areas are likely to develop as well. Once the government has more capital to put into its infrastructure services, it will be able to implement more extensive road network programs to reach beyond its main cities and highways to regions like Kanyemba. Zimbabwe’s future development, once rural roads are improved and/or created, will likely bring adequate jobs, health care and education to the more remote corners of the country. If all these expectations come to light, Zimbabwe has a great chance at realizing its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2030 in accordance with Vision 2030.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

the Friendship Bench

The Republic of Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern parts of Africa. Zimbabwe has a population of around 17 million. Estimates show that one in four Zimbabweans have anxiety and depression, yet there are only 12 psychiatrists in the country. Roughly two years ago, the idea of the Friendship Bench in Zimbabwe was introduced as an answer to this deficiency in mental health care. Now, the success of the program might be able to help other countries.

What is Friendship Bench?

In 2016, Dr. Dixon Chibanda came up with the idea of a friendship bench to treat the enormous problem of depression and inaccessibility to mental health treatment for the people of Zimbabwe. This was in response to the lack of resources and healthcare professionals. He decided to train 14 grandmothers as mental health counselors for a pilot project.

The government of Zimbabwe expanded the program following its success and has trained more than 700 grandmothers since. The mission of the Friendship bench is to boost mental well-being by bridging the gap created by poverty, distance and lack of resources. Friendship benches are wooden benches placed in open areas of health facilities where patients and their counselors have conversations based on problem-solving therapy.

The Randomized Control Studies conducted in 2016 evaluated the success of the Friendship Bench. They found that the benches alleviated symptoms of depression in 86 percent of the patients compared to 50 percent in a control group with standard therapy. These patients were also five times less likely to have suicidal thoughts. Dr. Dixon Chibanda, the founder of Friendship bench Project says that there are also positive effects of this treatment on other health outcomes such as hypertension and diabetes.

Why the Friendship Bench is so Successful?

The Friendship Bench in Zimbabwe has been successful for a number of reasons. By understanding these reasons, other countries could use this method to alleviate their mental health issues. The following are a few reasons that have led to the success of the Friendship Bench.

  1. The use of local terminology by the grandmothers to communicate resonated with the patients. For example, instead of using the word depression, grandmothers use the local word kufungisisa, which means ‘thinking too much.’ The non-use of strict medical terminology prevented stigma and encouraged people to seek help.
  2. The grandmothers involved in the project not only provided a safe space to share the problems but also helped empower their patients through solutions-oriented discussions.
  3. The patients meet with their counselors every week. This higher frequency of meetings leads to effective treatment.
  4. The holding of group sessions for the patients brings in a feeling of community and belonging.
  5. Since grandmothers who deliver the treatment come from the native community, they were able to build a relationship of trust with the patients.

Friendship Bench as a Blueprint for Other Countries

The United States has about 16 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. This number is one of the highest in the world, and yet it is inadequate. To cover this gap, New York City launched the Friendship bench project under the aegis of Dr. Chibanda in 2016. New York City has three permanent, bright orange friendship benches in Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem. The project got an enormous response. Within the first year of the program, there were already 30,000 visitors. The counselors in New York City are as diverse as people. In fact, many of them have experienced mental health issues and/or substance abuse.

Canadian Universities have an independent but similar program to tackle depression in students. The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench is a nonprofit organization in Canada that started in 2015. The program uses #YellowforHello to spread awareness about mental health. The method is the same; person-to-person conversation to solve the problems causing mental health issues in university students. Dr. Shekhar Saxena, the Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (MSD) said, “When it comes to mental health, all countries are developing countries.” Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and one of the largest contributors to the global burden of disease.

Zimbabwe’s success with the Friendship Bench has provided a blueprint for mental health treatment in both low- and high-income countries. With New York already following the suit and London in consideration, it is safe to say that Zimbabwe, an otherwise resource-deprived country, is leading the globe with an effective and accessible solution to address common mental health disorders.

Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr

food security health and nutrition projectZimbabwe has become a country of international focus since UNICEF, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the Zimbabwean government have been working together to feed starving people in the nation. The Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project has bloomed from that collaboration and poses a solution to undernourishment in susceptible areas in Zimbabwe.

UNICEF is a charitable organization that people know for its accomplishments in improving living conditions for the world’s impoverished. About 190 countries have benefitted from UNICEF programs, giving millions of children the chance to live, thrive and achieve. The organization has most recently shifted its focus to hunger in Zimbabwe in response to the increasing rates of global hunger in 2016.

Hunger in Zimbabwe

Malnutrition and its consequences are central concerns for policymakers in Zimbabwe. Nearly 650,000 children under 5 years old, or 27 percent, suffer from chronic malnutrition. UNICEF considers this statistic high compared to the rates in other nearby countries, which range from 19 to 31 percent. Children living in urban areas are more likely to suffer malnutrition than those in rural settings because preserving a healthy diet is harder to do.

Natural disasters and disease that plague cultivated areas in Zimbabwe have also inflated the rate of malnutrition. About 92 percent of Zimbabweans living in rural households rely on agriculture as the primary source of food and income. Drought, floods and livestock death all weaken the environment that produces healthful resources.

What is The Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project?

The Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project emerged in March 2019 as a means of solving undernourishment in Zimbabwe. Estimates determine that the initiative benefits nearly 130,000 individuals living in 11 regions of the country.

The program’s formula focuses on building a resilient environment that will remain productive throughout common hardships that eradicate food supply. Droughts and floods result in insufficient water flow, and as such, the project plans to forge weir dams and nutrition gardens that will allow crops to flourish in disastrous circumstances.

In addition, this project identifies women and children as particularly vulnerable groups. The program is providing financial and nutritional support to pregnant women living in maternity waiting homes throughout the country. This aid aims to ensure that mothers can provide a nutritious diet for their children, and thus, mitigate the prevalence of malnutrition in Zimbabwe.

A Recent Advocate

Most recently, Japan demonstrated support for the Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project. In 2018, the Japanese government donated $1 million to the initiative. The country’s funds will go towards crafting infrastructure to preserve water supply in flood-affected and drought-affected communities across Zimbabwe.

Japan’s lofty donation is just one way in which the country has positively contributed to third world development. In 2015, Japan provided $1.5 million for developing irrigation and harvesting systems in rural communities in Zimbabwe. There were more than 9,300 beneficiaries of this new framework. Japan also focuses on instilling a sentiment of independence, as it advocates for the human security necessary for individuals to shine.

While Japan has established a particular passion for curing hunger in Zimbabwe, the country requires more international help to solve undernourishment. In 2018, UNICEF found that nearly 821 million individuals are suffering from an insufficient food supply. The Food Security, Health and Nutrition Project is just one example of an effort to assuage this recorded hunger. A fitted policy that addresses the country’s specific issues is an efficient way to provide relief and development.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Drought in Zimbabwe

There has been a severe, ongoing drought in Zimbabwe for the past few years. Zimbabwe is a particularly sensitive country to drought. Because it already has issues with food security, low amounts of rain and other water sources make the situation even more difficult. Due to the fact that most agriculture in Zimbabwe relies on rainwater, the crop harvests in the region have suffered severely as a result of the drought. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, nearly 5.3 million people in the country (about a third of the country’s full population) face food insecurity due to low rainwater killing crops. With about 63 percent of people in Zimbabwe living below the poverty line, they will feel the impact of this drought the most.

Drought conditions are worse than ever

Temperatures as of late have been several degrees higher than average. The years 2015-2018 were the hottest ever recorded around the globe. These hotter, drier conditions have effected Zimbabwe. The heat intensifies the drought’s impacts on crops and livestock, resulting in a decrease in available food. The main crop which Zimbabwe relies on is maize. Typically, Zimbabwe’s annual maize consumption is about 1.8 million tons. However, due to droughts, the harvest in 2019 may be closer to 1 million, which is nearly half of the usually available amount. Experts say this could be the worst drought Zimbabwe has faced in over 30 years, with the country seeing 15 to 45 percent less than average rainfall.

Zimbabwe Flash Appeal program and other solutions

To combat this issue, the UN has launched the Zimbabwe Flash Appeal program, working to provide 234 million USD in aid. The program offers much-needed resources like food, water, sanitation and overall protection to over 2.2 million people in the country. With food prices increasing as a result of new governmental policies, people will be needing this aid more than ever.

There are other potential solutions to this issue, as well. Dispersing silver iodide into clouds (effectively “seeding” them) causes the clouds to thicken. This makes it more likely for the rain to occur, as water droplets are super-cooled and made heavier. Silver iodide mimics the chemical structure of ice. This causes other water droplets that are already cold enough to freeze to attach themselves and fall as rain.

Zimbabwe is one of 56 countries in the world that uses cloud-seeding technology, budgeting about $400,000 for it in 2018. The science is new and uncertain, and whether it effectively alleviates drought conditions is still disputed. However, it could provide one option to help correct the drought in Zimbabwe.

Another avenue to explore is diversifying crops and livestock in the midst of changing environmental conditions. One adaptation undertaken in some regions is an increased reliance on poultry livestock, such as quail and other indigenous birds.

Despite challenges, local farmers are working together to overcome the challenges in the area due to the drought. Economic and environmental crises are severe, but with efforts by the UN and local people in the country, there is still hope amid the drought in Zimbabwe.

-Jade Follette
Photo: Pixabay