Typhoid in Zimbabwe
Typhoid fever, a serious disease affecting between 11 and 21 million people worldwide, is commonly found in the developing regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Symptoms include high fevers, weakness, stomach pains, headaches, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Severe cases even lead to serious health complications and even death. Typhoid occurs most often in areas with poor sanitation and contaminated food and water. There are 128,000 to 161,000 typhoid-related deaths every year.

Typhoid in Zimbabwe

On 24 February 2018, the Harare City Health Department (HCHD) suspected 3,187 cases and confirmed 191 cases of typhoid in Zimbabwe. This was the latest major typhoid outbreak in Zimbabwe. Most typhoid outbreaks in the capital, Harare, are caused by municipal water shortages and the use of contaminated boreholes and shallow wells. HCHD works to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) throughout the city in order to lower typhoid cases and outbreaks in Zimbabwe. They repair boreholes, fix burst sewers, conduct water testing and sampling and educate local residents about water quality and typhoid.

Resistance to antibiotics creates another problem. Around one in five typhoid patients are already resistant to the common typhoid antibiotics and in some areas, resistance raises to a staggering 73 percent. For example, ciprofloxacin is an antibiotic widely used in the treatment of typhoid. However, 20 percent of typhoid patients in Harare show resistance to ciprofloxacin. Alternative antibiotics are more expensive and less available to patients, and although the sale of these medications without a prescription is illegal, over-the-counter purchases are a common practice.

The Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine

A solution to the problem of ineffective medicine is the typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV). The current typhoid vaccines can only provide short-term protection to patients and more importantly, cannot be given to children. The typhoid conjugate vaccine can reduce the need for antibiotics and unlike other vaccines, it provides longer-lasting protection, requires only one dose and works for children older than six months. The creation of the typhoid conjugate vaccine is a large step in global health.

Kathy Neuzil, leader for the Typhoid Vaccine Acceleration Consortium at the University of Maryland, said: “I have been in my career for around 25 years but these sorts of opportunities, where everything comes together, don’t happen very often. Here we had a vaccine that had been tested but wasn’t being used. Now it is licensed by the World Health Organization and Gavi is supporting countries to introduce it.” The TCV is making history, especially helping with typhoid in Zimbabwe.

The Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine in Zimbabwe

A major vaccine campaign began in Harare on 22 February 2019. Approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), carried out by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and funded by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, this campaign is the first in Africa to use the typhoid conjugate vaccine. It targets children aged from six months to 15 years old, and in high-risk areas, it will provide adults up to 45-years-old with the typhoid conjugate vaccine. By the end of the campaign on 3 March 2019, the typhoid conjugate vaccine will be available to 325,000 people throughout the capital city.

Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, is optimistic about the typhoid conjugate vaccine, saying: “These new conjugate vaccines will be a game-changer, not only in the battle against typhoid but also in the global effort to tackle drug resistance. The fact that they are now ready to be used to contain this devastating outbreak in Zimbabwe is fantastic news.”

Although vaccination campaign will significantly decrease typhoid outbreaks in Zimbabwe, vaccines are only a short-term solution. Completely eradicating typhoid in Zimbabwe will also require sustainable solutions for clean water and improved sanitation and hygiene. Together, the typhoid conjugate vaccine and sustainable WASH measures in Harare and other cities will help control and fight typhoid in Zimbabwe.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Zimbabwe
Mental health is something that is often easy to overlook, especially if you come from a low-income background. The intersection of mental health and poverty is one that interests many social scientists, yet it is a relatively new comparison. Several studies show that living in an impoverished setting makes one more likely to experience a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. With many impoverished countries lacking the resources needed to provide substantial help for those affected by mental illness, programs like The Friendship Bench Project, who are working to improve mental health in Zimbabwe, are making a big impact.

Important Facts About Mental Health in Zimbabwe

  1. One in four Zimbabweans suffers from a common mental disorder (CMD), i.e. depression or anxiety.
  2. In a population of 13 million, there are only 11 psychiatrists and 20 clinical psychologists. That’s fewer than one psychiatrist per one million people.
  3. Only two of nine mental health institutions in the country have psychiatrists.

In a country with only eleven psychiatrists where one in four citizens have a CMD, it’s easy to wonder if there is anything being done to help improve mental health in Zimbabwe. That’s where The Friendship Bench Project comes in.

The Friendship Bench Project

During a Ted Talk, Dr. Dixon Chibanda, founder of The Friendship Bench Project and one of the eleven psychiatrists in Zimbabwe, explained why he started this project. Simply put, there just weren’t enough psychiatric resources in Zimbabwe to provide the aid for those who needed it. He decided to do something about it. He says that “One of the most reliable resources we have in Africa are grandmothers… there are hundreds of them… and they don’t leave their communities.” Using this knowledge, he came to the conclusion that these grandmothers can be trained to provide the necessary support for individuals who need it.

The Friendship Bench Project is an intervention of sorts that is based on problem-solving therapy where a patient and a trained community grandmother come together to identify issues impacting the patient and brainstorm ways of solving them. It is unlike conventional therapy in which the patient is diagnosed with an issue or symptom and is then treated based on their diagnosis.

Community grandmothers are trained to listen, to show empathy and are empowered with the skills needed to provide behavior activation and schedule activities. Technically, they are trained as lay health workers, but patients who go to see them recognize them only as the community grandmothers that they have always been. There are seen as someone to talk to, as someone who will listen. Together, over several sessions sitting on a park bench outside of a community health clinic, the grandmother and patient talk and work through the issues that are most affecting the patient.

The Impact of the Friendship Bench Project

A randomized clinical trial was conducted in order to see if these friendship bench sessions were working to improve the mental health in Zimbabwe. The trial split 573 patients into two groups: one group would receive psychological intervention from the community grandmothers while the other group (the control group) would receive the usual mental care from mental health professionals.

The trial found that patients who worked with the grandmothers displayed symptom scores (as measured on two symptom scales) that were lower than those who worked with doctors. This means that they had fewer symptoms of common mental disorders when they worked with lay health workers than when they worked with mental health professionals.

As of right now, there are 400 grandmothers working on 70 benches located throughout Zimbabwe, helping 35,000 people through The Friendship Bench Project. These women are changing mental health in Zimbabwe for the better. While The Friendship Bench Project is currently centered in Zimbabwe, it’s an innovative solution to combating mental health that could soon be used worldwide. In fact, Dr. Chibanda’s next goal is to do just that.

CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr

investing in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe, a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, is becoming an interesting area for foreign investments. China is planning on investing more than $3 billion in the country this year. Some of the projects include investments in the hospitality, steel, mining and manufacturing sectors. China has been a major investor in Zimbabwe, accounting for more than 70 percent out of total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Current Economic Climate

Acting Chinese Ambassador Zhao Baogang, stated that China has strong confidence in Zimbabwe. After the efforts made by the Government of Zimbabwe, China believes that more investments will be attracting, the economy will go back to normal and the country will become prosperous and strong. Baogang is referring to the past government corruption under dictator Robert Mugabe and the hyperinflation that caused many inhabitants to struggle to afford food.

With a per capita GDP of $1,000, many Zimbabweans struggle, finding it hard to afford even the essentials. One such indirect solution has been provided by external companies and nations investing in Zimbabwe, creating jobs and bringing the country out from poor economic conditions. Zimbabwean politician Patrick Chinamasa stated that he believes working with China is necessary and wise because they have been able to take almost 300 million people out of poverty. Chinamasa is the Finance Minister and trusts China to help the poverty-stricken nation grow financially. He believes that more jobs and less government corruption will help renew business interests in Zimbabwe.

China’s Past Investing Success

China has had previous success with investing in Africa. This year is not the first time China has partnered with an African country in a business venture. Shoemaker Huajian Group had a huge financial success in Ethiopia thanks to Chinese investment. The shoemaker is set to expand to Zimbabwe, opening a $2 billion shoe factory in the country. It will be Huajian Group’s second-largest shoe factory, second to their largest facility built in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. If the deal is followed through, over 15,000 jobs will be created.

Future of Investing in Zimbabwe

According to Baogang, 2019 is an important year, as many international companies have discussed or already began their projects in Zimbabwe. Jinan Sinotruck Co. is a Chinese light truck maker that is collaborating with Quest Motors, a struggling vehicle manufacturer based in Mutare, to help them succeed again. More outside investors are seeing future financial prospects in steel, a basic component in building automobiles.

Investing in Zimbabwe is one opportunity external investors view as crucial for lithium mining. The Bikita and Kamatavi mines are seen as viable investments as the world turns to electric cars, which, such as the Tesla Model S and Chevy Volt, utilizes power from lithium-ion batteries. Pacemakers and other battery-utilized medical equipment make use of lithium batteries as well. With the future automobile industry appearing battery-powered, more companies are becoming interested in lithium mining. Zimbabwe’s ambassador to China Paul Chikawa has echoed Baogang’s optimistic statements, stating that Chinese investors are interested in projects involving tourism, manufacturing and mining.

Other International Investors

The outside involvement in the country’s lithium mining is good news for Zimbabwe. Various companies, such as Prospect Resources, founded in Australia and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, invested more than $165 million in Zimbabwe’s lithium mining industry through the Arcadia Lithium Project. The company stated that $3 billion in export revenue is feasible. Baogang mentioned that two other companies are interested in lithium mining in the Kamativi mine in Matabeleland North province and that some progress has already been achieved.

According to diplomats from Australia and China, several more investors are interested in investing in Zimbabwe. They are keen on expanding to a nation with many prospects in the mining, hospitality, steel, agriculture, rail and timber industries. With many investors interested in Zimbabwe, the nation is set to create new jobs and grow financially, providing its citizens with better living conditions along the way.

– Lucas Schmidt

Photo: Flickr

poverty and dictatorship
Among the 10 dictatorship countries profiled, poverty is endemic. Poverty alleviation in these 10 dictatorship countries is in some cases associated with human rights abuses, violent crackdowns on the political opposition and indigenous people. In the last two decades, however, some of these countries have moved towards embracing democracy, which has brought an influx of government institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign investment working to promulgate poverty alleviation.

The State of Poverty in 10 Dictatorship Countries

  1. Cambodia – In June of 2018, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was officially qualified as a military dictator by Human Rights Watch. Through an environment of fear, Cambodia has been littered with human rights abuses, crackdowns on the opposition, coercion and repression of the media. In September of 2018, the United Nations Development Program stated that 35 percent of all Cambodians are still poor regardless of the decline in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. In 2006, the Ministry of Planning established the IDPoor Programme to guide government services and NGOs to provide target services and assistance to the poorest households. As of December 2017, The IDPoor Programme has assisted 13 million people and has covered 90 percent of Cambodians.
  2. Cameroon – Current Prime Minister, Paul Biya, seized control of Cameroon from his fellow despotic predecessor in 1982. Biya has since ruled the central African country with an iron fist. In 2014, 37.5 percent of the people were living in poverty. However, a development NGO called Heifer Cameroon has been playing a positive role in alleviating the strains of poverty for Cameroon’s most poor and vulnerable communities. Heifer Cameroon has assisted 30,000 families by spurring job creation among the rural poor through focusing on the dairy industry along with other livestock.
  3. Eritrea – Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, took power after its independence and has since entrapped his citizens in a cloud of fear. Furthermore, the nation was rocked by internal war, drought and famine. According to estimates of The World Bank, 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. Despite these conditions, Eritrea has drastically improved its public health conditions. Indeed since its liberation, life expectancy has increased by 14 years to 63 years. And over 70 percent of the population now has access to clean water, compared to just 15 percent in 1993.
  4. Ethiopia – In 2000, Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, but by 2011, the poverty rate had fallen by 14 percent. In 2018, Ethiopia became Africa’s fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan African region. However, some of the country’s development schemes have been wildly unpopular, such as the mass land-grab that is displacing Ethiopians so the government can lease out the land to foreign investors. On the other hand, some developments have actually made improvements in average household health, education and living standards.
  5. Madagascar – Madagascar has experienced a long period of political instability since its independence in the 1960s. Current President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was democratically elected in 2014. Rajaonarimampianina has prioritized recovering Madagascar’s relationship with foreign investment agencies, like The World Bank, IMF and The African Union. Unfortunately, in 2018, 75 percent of Madagascar’s population are still living under the poverty line.
  6. Myanmar – From 1966 to 2016, Myanmar existed under a military dictatorship that bore multiple wars spurred out of hatred and persecution of Rohingya Muslims and Christians. The crackdown and ethnic cleansing created a major refugee crisis. Today, Myanmar is reportedly inching towards democracy, but the military, headed by Gen. Than Shwe, still has major sway. In 2015, 35 percent of the population of Myanmar lived in poverty.
  7. Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime is often associated with maintaining peace and stability since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However, critics of Kagame cite numerous human rights abuses and fear that the President is leading the country towards dictatorship. Still, Rwanda has taken major strides in addressing and decreasing the poverty rate. Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate declined by 23.8 percent. Recent economic growth within the country has been evenly distributed and pro-poor, with the majority of the Rwandan population benefiting from this economic growth.
  8. Sudan – President al-Bashir came to power in 1989 and reigned with a brutal dictatorship in Sudan until his exile in 2015. Poverty in Sudan is endemic. In 2018, 2.8 million were in need of humanitarian aid and 4.8 million were food insecure. Such high rates of poverty engender low literacy levels, crumbling infrastructure, little to no access to health services and high rates of food insecurity.
  9. Tunisia – President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali headed Tunisia’s dictatorship until 2011 when he was ousted by a people’s revolution. However, that stability was maintained by the military, which performed countless human rights abuses. However, poverty reduction strategies have rung successful as the poverty rate in Tunisia fell by 10 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  10. Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe, who was the President of Zimbabwe for 37 years until 2017, had long been seen as a dictator and is attributed by The Economist as “ruining” Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s policies led to hyperinflation and an infrastructure system in disrepair. Build Zimbabwe Alliance claims that 72 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line. The main causes of poverty in Zimbabwe are the economic recession of 2008 and global warming’s impact on agriculture.

These 10 dictatorship countries have taken strides in increasing access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Such programs have been most successful in regards to pro-poor poverty reduction. The political outlook of some of these countries is improving, but there is still a lot of work needed to improve poverty in all of the countries listed.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s ElectionZimbabwe recently held the first elections since President Robert Mugabe’s regime was ousted after nearly four decades of rule. With the end of his dictatorial version of democracy, Zimbabweans were optimistic that these elections would bring much-needed change. Despite the resulting post-election violence and crack-downs, there were many positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election, which was necessary steps towards a true democracy.

Ending a 37-Year Rule

The military leaders intervened after Mugabe fired his vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, while intending to make his younger wife his successor. With Mugabe ousted, Mnangagwa—a former security chief who is still seen as Mugabe’s ruthless enforcer—took over as Zimbabwe’s second head of state.

Mugabe began as a promising president after Zimbabwe’s independence, but he soon turned autocratic. Under him, people suffered from violent land reforms and devastating economic measures. He cut ties with international banks and monetary agencies. Mugabe’s policies led to some of the worst hyperinflations in the world and nearly collapsed the economy.

Amidst social and economic crisis, Mugabe resorted to oppression and intimidation to retain power. In fact, in the 80s, over 10,000 supporters of opposition parties were massacred in an event now known as The Matabeleland Massacres. Although elections were held, they were riddled with voter intimidation and often rigged.

In November 2017, Mugabe reluctantly resigned after a military coup surrounded his house for six days. Parliament had also already begun impeachment procedures. Mugabe’s resignation was met with cheers and celebrations across Zimbabwe.

Positive Aspects of Zimbabwe’s Election

As the July 30 elections drew nearer, Zimbabweans had high hopes that this time it would be different. Two candidates established themselves as the frontrunners. The incumbent President Mnangagwa, representing Zimbabwe’s leading ZANU-PF party, faced off against the younger Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), an opposition party.  

One of the most significant positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election was allowing Western observers enter to monitor the elections for the first time in 16 years. The observers noted that the use of state resources to run advertising campaigns provided the incumbent party an unfair advantage, which was a cause for concern, but the elections themselves were peaceful.

The main complaint was disorganization at some of the polls where voters stood in long lines and some waited up to six hours to cast their ballot. In other locations, everything ran smoothly and on-time. Zimbabweans demonstrated their hopes and enthusiasm at the polls. Around 75 percent of the 5.6 million registered voters showed up. This high voter turnout was viewed as another example of the positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election, an indication of an educated and receptive electorate, according to the electoral commission chief.

Preliminary assessments by observers suggested a relatively free and fair election. There were minimal signs of intimidation or bribery, but further analysis is necessary to consider the effects that the public media campaigns, a lack of transparency and the disorganization at the polls might have had on the results. The European Union’s chief observer said that at the very least, there was an improvement from previous elections.

However, with delays in the official counts for the election, unease rippled throughout the country. The accusations of vote-rigging triggered opposition supporters to take to the streets. The response of security forces was swift and severe; a reminder of life under Mugabe’s oppressive autocracy. Six people were killed in the violent clashes and another 14 were injured. Then 18 members of the opposition party were arrested.

Despite the issues, the incumbent Mnangagwa won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote, just enough to avoid a runoff. Some critics fear that his presidency will just be a continuation of Mugabe’s regime—Mnangagwa is accused of leading some of the worst atrocities during this era, and the political power still rests with Mugabe’s comrades.

President Mnangagwa’s Plans for Zimbabwe

As president, Mnangagwa has been trying to shed his ruthless reputation. His main focus has been on reviving the country’s devastated economy through much-needed reforms. By reestablishing relations with the West, he promises to reverse Mugabe’s isolationist attitudes.

During Mnangagwa’s first 100 days as president after Mugabe was ousted, he has already begun setting some of these changes in motion. His plan is partially based on recommendations for Zimbabwe by the British neoliberal think tank, Adam Smith Institute.

The government promised to reopen industries and is currently investing in organizations such as The Cold Storage Company to help boost production for the meat industry. Many are hopeful that these changes will create jobs for Zimbabweans. 

He has also begun tackling the rampant corruption and arresting several high-profile offenders—although critics argue that he needs to look within his own cabinet. During a three-month amnesty period, he even encouraged corrupt officials to return money taken illegally.

Reducing corruption is necessary to improve life for Zimbabweans as well as to attract foreign businesses. For similar reasons, Mnangagwa has made trade deals with Belarus, China and Russia. A commission with a South African rail company will have the dual benefit of improving transportation and increasing investment.

Zimbabwe is desperate to receive foreign assistance from the West to help jumpstart the economy. However, this aid is predicated on political reforms, which include peaceful and credible elections. It looks as though some of these reforms could come to pass under Mnangagwa’ presidency.

Although there were allegations of fraud and the government’s post-election crackdown can’t be overlooked, no fraud has been found and Mnangagwa’s presidency is considered legitimate. Mnangagwa has outlined many positive plans for the future of Zimbabwe. If he makes good on his word, then that will be another of the many positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election.

– Liesl Hostetter
Photo: Flickr

Transforming Gender Norms in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe faced a devastating drought in 2016 and food security continues to be a major problem in the South African country, primarily affecting young children. Since 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been heavily involved in assuring Zimbabweans’ food security, focusing on supporting farmers, strengthening agricultural markets and managing natural resources.

USAID increased its spending in Zimbabwe by $21.5 million in 2015, expanding interventions to water sanitation and hygiene. However, gender norms in Zimbabwe also affect the lack of food security, especially for children.

Gender Norms in Zimbabwe

Most men in Zimbabwe have little to do with feeding or caring for their children, leaving mothers to do the majority of child-rearing. But for three meals a day, Zimbabwean mothers must search for firewood, make a fire, collect water, cook and clean dishes. The rest of most mothers’ days are spent tending to their families’ crops, leaving little time for mothers to focus on childcare and healthy nutrition.

Social and gender norms in Zimbabwe combine to mean that men are not heavily involved in child rearing, which is viewed as a women’s responsibility. The concept that men get involved with their children is so foreign to Zimbabwean culture that men who do involve themselves get accused of being under a love spell or potion.

USAID’s members realized that working with men is essential to transforming gender norms and thereby ensuring healthy feeding practices for children. The agency started implementing the Male Champions of Change (MCC) strategy to change gender norms in Zimbabwe, using the motto, “Indoda Emadodeni,” meaning Man Among Men.

Male Champions of Change

Australia was the first to formally implement the MCC Institute under the Australian Human Rights Commission. The MCC Institute is a collaborative initiative that strives to address entrenched gender inequalities. Now, MCC’s strategy is used by a number of organizations worldwide, such as the U.N. and USAID.

As its name suggests, MCC targets men. The MCC Institute was actually founded by a woman and women are heavily involved in the Institute, but the founder recognized that political power still rests largely in the hands of men and engaging men would help accelerate change. Changing gender norms in Zimbabwe is more than just a women’s issue, and men have a responsibility to step up beside women to advocate for equality.

MCC involves appealing to men rationally and emotionally. Its strategy defines the business, economic and social benefits of gender equality and urges male leaders to confront and understand the challenges women close to them face every day.

MCC encourages men to support:

  • Changing workplace conditions, cultures and mindsets
  • Increasing the number of women on boards and executive committees
  • Recruiting, developing and retaining diverse candidates
  • Prioritizing health and safety in workplaces and prohibiting all forms of violence, including verbal and sexual
  • Sharing experiences and strategies for advancing gender equality
  • Being spokespersons for gender equality
  • Assessing and publicly reporting on progress and results on gender equality

MCC in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, USAID’s MCC campaign focuses primarily on gender equality within households. In comparison, the MCC Institute of Australia focuses more on equality in the workplace and in society in general.

Participants of USAID’s MCC campaign, called Male Champions, recruit their peers and hold monthly meetings and group training. At the meetings, Male Champions discuss their roles and responsibilities at home and the interactive training sessions challenge the men to debate and resolve gender-related problems. The meetings also specifically address gender and social norms that present barriers to good nutrition and gender equality.

Male Champions in Zimbabwe come to recognize that their manhood will not be diminished by cooking. One Male Champion said that he learned how to make his daughter porridge and feed her. A USAID survey also found statistically significant improvements in supportive behaviors such as:

  • Collecting water
  • Fetching firewood
  • Caring for children
  • Cooking
  • Accompanying wives to health facilities

USAID also saw an increase in joint decision-making between spouses from 30 percent to 82 percent in just one year. Overall, USAID’s MCC campaign has made a significant difference in changing gender norms in Zimbabwe to ensure gender equality and nutritional security for children.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

Zimbabwe's Tobacco Secret: Confronting Child Labor in Zimbabwe
The nation of Zimbabwe is working towards more economic stability with its multiple industries, but has recently made headlines for its harmful farming practices, such as child labor.

Zimbabwe has been in the news for its tobacco farming practices, as farm workers have complained about health complications from working on tobacco farms, as well as the poor regulations on farms that fail to ensure that workers’ rights are being respected. What has been more alarming is the discovery of child workers, who have prompted humanitarian organizations to investigate child labor in Zimbabwe as practiced on the nation’s tobacco farms.

Zimbabwe’s Economy

Zimbabwe had a GDP of $17.11 billion and a per capita income of $2,300 as of 2017. The nation’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture and relies heavily on tobacco production for economic sustainability.

The nation is the sixth-largest producer of tobacco in the world, and the tobacco plant is the nation’s most valuable export commodity. The industry alone brought the nation an estimated $933 million in 2016.

Health Risks of Tobacco Farming

As the world’s demand for tobacco persists, growing concerns over child labor in Zimbabwe have surfaced as child workers have come forward to report the poor conditions they have faced while working on tobacco plantations.

According to UNICEF, one in four children in developing countries are engaged in child labor. Furthermore, in an extensive report published by Human Rights Watch, it was discovered that child laborers who harvested tobacco were exposed to nicotine and pesticides. This led to many experiencing symptoms consistent with nicotine poisoning, including nausea, headaches and dizziness. Heath researchers have also suspected that exposure to nicotine can affect brain development in children.

It was also discovered that farm workers who worked on larger farms worked long hours and did not receive any compensation for working overtime.

Human Rights Watch also noted that labor laws in Zimbabwe state that no child under the age of 16 is permitted to work and that children under the age of 18 are not permitted to work in a hazardous environment. However, several children under the age of 16 have reported working on Zimbabwe’s tobacco farms.

Solutions to Child Labor in Zimbabwe

The persistence of child labor in Zimbabwe is mainly attributed to the weak economy. With a national per capita income of roughly $2,300, families have resorted to using their children as laborers to help them survive.

Human Rights Watch child rights researcher Margaret Wurth stated that one solution to ending child labor in Zimbabwe is to make sure that companies who source tobacco from Zimbabwe do not purchase a crop produced by child workers, many of whom are forced to sacrifice their education and health to support their families.

The nation has about 120 labor inspectors, which is insufficient to monitor labor practices in every business, and it would be in the government’s best interest to recruit more inspectors to better monitor how business owners treat their employees.

The nation has shown signs of improvement; Human Rights Watch stated that the government has been working with trade unions and other groups “to develop occupational safety and health regulations for agriculture”.

Although child labor in Zimbabwe has become a crisis for the nation, it is likely that the nation’s government, under the authority of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, will be able to reverse its human rights abuses and further grow the economy, ensuring that children do not have to risk their health and education in order to help support their families.

– Lois Charm
Photo: Flickr

IGATE programSince 2013, the Improving Girls’ Access through Transforming Education (IGATE) initiative in Zimbabwe has been aimed at identifying and reducing the barriers that limit and hinder girls’ educational access. The IGATE program in Zimbabwe is transforming girls’ education through empowerment.

Current Issues with Girls’ Education in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has the highest regional literacy rate with 96 percent. However, women make up 60 percent of the illiterate adult population and the school dropout rate remains particularly high among female students.

Through the sponsorship of the Girls Education Challenge Fund, the six-member organization and education initiative IGATE has a goal of reaching 90,000 women and girls. For these students, it aims to improve access to school while raising retention and performance rates.

How Exactly the IGATE Program Helps

SNV, a Dutch nonprofit focused on equipping communities with the knowledge to overcome poverty, is one of the six IGATE partners. It has been implementing the IGATE program in Zimbabwe with a specific focus on addressing the following barriers that interfere or hinder girls’ access to education:

  • Village savings and loans
  • Schools Development Committees (SDCs)
  • Capacity building including the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) component
  • Bicycle education empowerment programme (BEEP)
  • Male champions for girls’ education
  • Channels of hope (religious component targeting challenges of early marriages)
  • Improving children’s reading culture (happy readers) 

Through educating the community and empowering women with the tools they need for success, the IGATE program in Zimbabwe has already seen large improvements in individual lives. For example, programs like the Power Within girls club have helped children feel more equipped for success. According to World Vision International, Basitsana, a member of the club, stated, “We have been taught about child rights, career guidance and also communication. I think as I continue with this project, I will grow up to be a more clever and confident person.” 

Other models, such as the Village Savings and Lending Scheme, have helped parents pay for their children’s schools fees. Taki, a parent and beneficiary of the program, commented, “My life has significantly changed since starting activities with IGATE. I used to face difficulty in paying school fees…Now I can pay school fees for my children and also buy other necessities, especially for my daughter, such as sanitary pads.”

Continuing the Effects of IGATE

Not only has IGATE made differences in individual lives, it has also impacted the country as a whole. To date, IGATE has grown from its original eight districts to now 10 districts in Zimbabwe while also adding three new models of intervention focusing on barriers of distance, learning outcomes and male champion support. 

In the first three years of operation, IGATE estimates that the number of people directly benefited was around 70,000. Specifically, 4,500 School Development Committee members, 12,000 mothers of girls who participate in a mothers’ group and 2,000 traditional religious leaders whose involvement will allow for culturally and religiously appropriate approaches have all benefitted. 

Specific achievements of IGATE through the partnership of SNV include: 

  • 363 mothers’ groups of 467 target schools trained in Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and the making of Reusable Menstrual Pads (RUMPs)
  • 361 school matrons have been trained in MHM and RUMP-making in the 10 districts in four provinces.
  • 467 Schools Development Committees have been trained in school governance, in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene management in schools, in planning and budgeting and in girl child issues including gender-based violence and child abuse in schools
  • Two sets of manuals including training guides were developed and approved through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s Curriculum Development Unit
  • 164 school health teachers were trained in participatory health and hygiene education (PHHE) 

For the future, the IGATE program in Zimbabwe has ambitious goals to reach 50,000 school girls in 450 schools across three provinces and eight districts.

– Anne-Marie Maher
Photo: Flickr

Gogo OliveSeventy-two percent of Zimbabweans live under the national poverty line, making it the 22nd poorest country in the world. Gogo Olive is a charity whose focus is to mitigate some of the problems faced by Zimbabweans, specifically women. Here is how one charity is changing the lives of Zimbabwean women.

The Problem: Difficulty Making a Living

One hardship faced by many women is HIV/AIDS, a disease that affected 1.3 million Zimbabweans in 2016. This results in many widowed parents who have to provide for their families by themselves. Providing for their households, however, is a difficult task when job opportunities are so limited. The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is currently at 11.3 percent, and increases when excluding the large numbers of subsistence farmers and those working in the informal economy. This, however, is not the main problem for Zimbabweans.

The real problem, according to the International Labour Organization, is the poor quality of employment, characterized by low wages, no sick leave for employees and poor working conditions. In this way, the great need in Zimbabwe is decent jobs. Gogo Olive has met this need by employing women to knit goods, primarily in the form of knitted animals.

The Solution: Gogo Olive

Gogo Olive was founded by Julie Hagan as a way to create jobs for six women through knitting. Since its inception in 2008, the charity has grown to include about 80 knitters who produce hundreds of these knitted animals each month. According to the website, “Knitting was chosen as it only requires basic materials and can be done anywhere and at anytime, which suits the lifestyle of a Zimbabwean woman.”

The charity operates on two levels. Gogo Olive Knits creates jobs and generates income for women by selling their knitted products. Gogo Olive Cares focuses on meeting the other needs of the women. This includes establishing savings plans, running educational workshops, distributing care packages, and setting up an emergency fund to help with health costs and school fees. This is how one charity is changing the lives of Zimbabwean women: they not only provide an income, they also include additional benefits that have no doubt helped the poor greatly.

Gogo Olive Knits presents a flexible way to earn income. The knitters are paid monthly for each product they produce. According to Ruth Hagan, they can earn up to $250 monthly.

An additional benefit of working for Gogo Olive is the educational workshops. The majority of the knitters have had little education, a problem which keeps them in the poverty trap. Some of the topics covered are budgeting, HIV/AIDS awareness, healthcare, single parenting and farming techniques.

Beyond Income: Gogo Olive Cares

Gogo Olive Cares also provides an emergency fund for people in special circumstances. This includes school fees for their children and medical fees for medication or treatment that the women would otherwise be unable to afford. Ruth Hagan shared a story about one of the knitters who received a payment from the emergency fund. “In January, one of our knitters accessed the fund which allowed her to have a hip replacement following living in considerable pain for a number of years.” The knitter, Florence, is now back at work and able to walk with a crutch.

The benefits extend far beyond simply meeting physical needs. Ruth explains, “We love that we are able to teach a skill and offer employment to many ladies. Not only does this allow them to make enough money to feed their children and pay for school fees but it also gives them each a sense of value and worth as they have meaningful occupation.”

Ruth Hagan said of the experience, “It is great to be a part of positively impacting lives of so many in Zimbabwe.” Seeing how one charity is changing the lives of Zimbabwean women goes to show that any good deed, big or small, can have an immense impact.

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

Banana farming in ZimbabweBanana farming in Zimbabwe has evolved from a subsistence crop to a commercial enterprise, transforming rural communities in the eastern part of the country.

In 2010, USAID funded the Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED) program that worked with banana farmers in the Honde Valley in eastern Zimbabwe to improve agricultural practices, access to markets and the production of high-quality bananas.

The Food and Agriculture Organization also implemented the Mupangwa irrigation scheme in the Honde Valley to help farmers improve banana cultivation and link them to markets and other farmers in the region.

Prior to USAID intervention, banana farming in Zimbabwe was a low-income enterprise. Farmers earned less than $200 per year due to a lack of formal markets and very low harvest yields. Bananas were only grown on a small scale and sold on the roadside to middlemen that took advantage of these small-scale farmers by paying low prices only to sell them for much higher prices.

Where monthly yields used to be only 30 to 50 kilograms of bananas, individuals are now able to produce over 1,000 kilograms per month. The region has gone from producing 2,000 tons in 2011 to more than 27,000 tons in 2017, contributing more than $7.5 million to the rural economy each year.

Banana farming in Zimbabwe has been wildly successful because the trees are easy to manage. Banana trees require a humid tropical climate, good drainage and fertile soil. The Honde Valley in eastern Zimbabwe ticks all of these boxes and thus is perfect for banana farming.

By 2015, about 600 banana farmers had received technical assistance in agricultural techniques. They were able to transform their farming practices to increase their production and incomes drastically. Those farmers then passed on their knowledge to neighbors and others in their community. Now, the Honde Valley is home to more than 5,000 commercial banana farmers, each earning an average of about $4,200 per acre per year.

Banana farming in Zimbabwe has opened many other doors for rural farmers and their families. Access to credit and bank loans has increased dramatically, school enrollment has increased and local small and medium-sized businesses have sprung up in the region. Young people that had left the country in search of employment have returned to eastern Zimbabwe to take up small-scale banana farming. Half of the African population is under 25 years old, so providing decent employment opportunities is vital for the young labor force.

Commercial banana farming in Zimbabwe has also empowered women. Women constitute approximately 60 percent of banana farmers in the Honde Valley. Many of the newfound banana farmers are widows trying to make ends meet to support their families. Other women help supplement their husbands’ incomes with the profits from banana farming.

Banana farming in Zimbabwe has helped pull rural communities out of poverty, improve nutrition and food security, increase incomes and empower individuals throughout the Honde Valley.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Flickr