Water Quality in Zimbabwe
Lake Chivero, a key water source for Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, is one of the several major dams that have reached full capacity countrywide. The synchronized overflow of the dams followed incessant rains that have pounded Zimbabwe for two weeks. Contrary to popular belief, this overflow is a good thing — at least in regards to the water quality in Zimbabwe.

The spilling of Lake Chivero, according to Harare Water Director Eng Hoslah Chisango, would improve not only the availability of water but also the water quality in Zimbabwe. When the lake spills, the downstream pour carries dirt with it and so the quality of the raw water is improved.

According to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, Lake Chivero has risen to 108% capacity. But Lake Chivero’s overflow is just one of many across the country. Other water reservoirs have also been full as a consequence of the heavy rains, and the national dam level average has risen to 65%. This is a huge landmark, especially in Zimbabwe, where the residents suffer from scarce water supplies.

The two weeks of heavy rains may not seem noteworthy, but in Zimbabwe, they are just the opposite. The domino effect set in motion by the overflow of dams across the country could help Zimbabwe get access to clean water for the near future. This is especially important as the country’s overall water coverage is a mere 56%. Most people rely on water from boreholes (narrow shafts drilled into the ground), which are almost all contaminated. Women and children, who are often the ones responsible for going to the borehole, often have to wait up to five hours to collect water.

Water quality in Zimbabwe is nevertheless an important problem that needs to be addressed, but the dams may provide momentary relief for the country. On a large scale, the overflow will not offer the necessary relief to the Harare residents who have been suffering from both the country’s droughts and the council’s inefficiency to find a long-term solution. Hopefully, the dam overflow sheds light on the poor water quality in Zimbabwe and the need for additional aid.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr

Zimbabwe:Works, beginning in 2012 and now ripe in its second phase since January 2015, is a collaborative project to enhance the careers of young Zimbabweans. Sponsored by USAID, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Zimbabwe:Works implements programming in local non-governmental and private sector organizations to train youths in entrepreneurial skills, professional networking and financial literacy. In a shrinking economy, such assets might otherwise be denied young Zimbabweans, as would their chance to pursue meaningful, lucrative careers.

Through the Passport to Success (PTS) curriculum, young Zimbabweans are learning teamwork and career readiness skills which not only augment their economic futures but also impart a sense of confidence and self-worth. Already, nearly 4,000 young people in Zimbabwe have received financial literacy training since the inception of this second phase, and about half of these have accessed loans from microfinance institutions to build or develop their own businesses, with more than $12 million in ensuing net profits. With an aim to assist more than 22,000 by its conclusion at the end of this year, Zimbabwe:Works is providing young people with the financial legs for standing on to create and grow their own economic opportunities.

Zimbabwe:Works addresses the problematic and growing disconnect between current employment opportunities and young job seekers, and with Zimbabwean youth constituting 67 percent of the nation’s unemployed, the situation waxes urgent. For women especially, 21.2% of women between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed, compared to 11.7 percent of men in the same age demographic.

Addressing the capital of Harare last year, the Head of DFID Zimbabwe Annabel Gerry said, “Women and girls are over-represented in low-skilled, low-productivity, low-paid occupations. This project is going to provide young Zimbabweans, and women in particular, with skills and economic opportunity for themselves and the nation at large.” With an emphasis on the interconnectedness of gender equality and poverty reduction, Zimbabwe:Works has made the economic preparation of young women a particular priority.

To invest in the future careers and opportunity access of young people is to address poverty at its roots. The educational and vocational skills which Zimbabwe:Works provides a young generation not only facilitates the pursuit of individual success but reestablishes the foundations of a strong national economy. And with the serious weight placed on optimizing opportunities for women, Zimbabwe:Works attempts to address the “engendered nature of poverty” and end the social inequities which perpetuate national poverty.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

Sista2Sista Club Empowers the Women of Zimbabwe
Gender inequality is a crippling factor that debilitates women and young girls in impoverished countries, such as Zimbabwe. In response to the increasing rate of dropouts and sexual abuse that is prevalent in Zimbabwe, the Sista2Sista club was established in 2013 to assist in empowering Zimbabwe women to learn about personal rights and advocate for themselves.

Stories like that of  15-year-old Shamiso Nyamutamba are far too common in Zimbabwe. By age 5, both of Shamiso’s parents had passed away and she was sent to live with her uncle, who planned to force her hand in marriage and send her to work instead of pursuing an education. Shamiso’s time with her uncle included abuse and discrimination and though she was fortunate enough to eventually escape the harmful environment, she was still required to make work a priority in her life in lieu of an education. Soon after her transition, Shamiso heard of the Sista2Sista club that offered a safe place for vulnerable girls, such as herself.

Shamiso eventually learned she was HIV positive since birth. Through the advocacy and empowerment that Sista2Sista provides, she continues to grow with their health services and school programs. She has “proven to be academically gifted,” and as described by Shamiso, Sista2Sista “taught [her] that early marriage is wrong… and to report cases of abuse right away.”

Since the organization of Sista2Sista started, 10,388 Zimbabwean girls have joined the club. The U.N. Population Fund provides financial support and advocates for the initiatives of promoting sexual and reproductive health rights. UNFPA works to reduce maternal mortality rates, provide family planning education and prevent new HIV infections and gender-based violence. The UNFPA supports the need for an informed “understanding of population dynamics and using an integrated, rights-based and gender-sensitive approach.”

Ongoing support for women through organizations such as Sista2Sista has created a movement in Zimbabwe that continues to invent new methods needed to advocate for furthering women’s rights. As outlined in the Girls and Young Women’s Empowerment Framework, the Government of Zimbabwe plans to increase accessibility to sexual and reproductive health services. Additional goals include increasing female participation in the decision-making processes and equality in all levels of education, as well as increasing the rate of violence reporting experienced by girls from three percent to 50% by 2020.

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

The Elders Support Zimbabwe Through a Letter to SADC
The Elders, a group of global leaders unified by Nelson Mandela, have urged the heads of state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to support Zimbabwe through an upcoming transitional period.

In a letter to the SADC, they point out that Zimbabwe is “on the verge of an important transition.” The advocates behind the letter, including Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, note that with the support of the SADC, Zimbabwe could experience a shift to democratic leadership and a boost to their economic and social development.

Zimbabwe has been rife with protests recently as a result of displeasure with President Robert Mugabe’s rule, as well as various economic problems that have developed in the country.

There are cash shortages throughout the country, the government is planning to reintroduce bond notes as legal tender and civil servants are lacking several months of pay. Civilian anger about these facts has led to multiple protests that police have broken up through the use of batons and tear gas.

Government authorities are attempting to subdue civilian protests, many of which have been organized through social media, by drafting a law that will punish civilians with up to five years jail time for “abusive” use of social media.

The Elder’s letter comes at an auspicious time considering the current tumult within Zimbabwe. Additionally, the letter prefaces the upcoming SADC group summit in Swaziland.

In the letter, not only do the Elders support Zimbabwe but they also make clear that aid to Zimbabwe will be beneficial for the nation as a whole and should, therefore, be something that SADC thoroughly consider in their impending meeting.

The letter states, “The Elders believe the upcoming summit is an important opportunity to reflect on how best SADC can help Zimbabwe manage the complex challenges ahead.”

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Zimbabwe Refugees
Here are 10 facts about Zimbabwe refugees:

  1. It’s estimated that 3.4 million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the population have fled their country as refugees. Most of them have gone to three countries — South Africa, Australia and Britain. Britain houses the majority with over 400,000.
  2. Zimbabweans are leaving their homes as a result of the repressive government in the country. For more than 40 years, President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly violated human rights. Amnesty International called on the government to “end the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders.”
  3. Most Zimbabwean refugees flee to South Africa, the bordering country. South Africa is actually one of the busiest borders in Africa, and the number of Zimbabweans entering has been increasing since President Mugabe escalated his brutal regime. Once in South Africa, local churches are able to provide Zimbabweans with the food and education they have to give.
  4. Thousands of Zimbabweans apply for asylum, yet only a tiny fraction is granted. Since South Africa does not officially recognize the human rights violations of Mugabe’s regime, the majority of Zimbabweans crossing the border are deported back to their country, 14,000 are deported every week.
  5. Many Zimbabweans attempting to seek refugee status in South Africa face deadly diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV. The Mugabe regime has been unable to provide any type of health care system.
  6. Zimbabweans crossing the border to South Africa at Beitbridge are forced to swim across the river. Unfortunately, many don’t make it. There are frequent reports of drowning or being eaten by crocodiles.
  7. The vast majority of Zimbabweans that flee to South Africa are children. Between 350 and 400 cross the border without passing official checkpoints, many travel without an adult. Criminals know this and take advantage of the situation — robbing, enslaving or sexually abusing Zimbabwean children.
  8. The large influx of Zimbabweans entering South Africa has lead to backlash from the local population — the lack of jobs has created xenophobia.
  9. Doctors Without Borders continues to be a huge help for refugees, yet their only location in South Africa near the Zimbabwean border was closed. This location was crucial in providing 2,000 medical consultants for Zimbabweans each month, protecting them from danger while awaiting their legal papers to enter into South Africa.
  10. Much of Zimbabwe is maintained and financed because of the money that these refugees are sending back home; small amounts of money are consistently sent each month to many families who then use that money to pay for school, groceries or housing.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr

Free Education in Zimbabwe
Upon gaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe mandated free education. Today, however, fees for education in Zimbabwe are at an all time high.

On August 18, nearly 2,000 women activists protested for free education in Zimbabwe in the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo. Only one day later, the protests moved to the Ministry of Education in Harare, the country’s capital. These protests come at a time when citizens are struggling to find jobs and children are being forced to drop out of school because their families cannot afford it.

Organized by Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), the protests follow a string of public demonstrations that have occurred within the last two months. In Bulawayo, the protesters presented a petition to the resident minister, declaring the right to free education in Zimbabwe. A similar petition was given to Sylvia Masango, a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

Only 12 percent of the Zimbabwean government’s national budget is allocated to primary and secondary education, according to UNICEF. Of that 12 percent, most of the money only covers administration and teacher salaries. In August, the government reported it would not be taking new hires as it scrambles to pay the salaries of its current public workers.

According to UNICEF, over one million Zimbabwean secondary-school-aged children are not attending school. The number of school dropouts is increasing as the disparity in education grows. Children whose families rank in the top five percent of wealthiest people nationally are three times as likely to attend secondary school as children whose families rank in the bottom five percent.

Fifteen percent of children in Zimbabwe are not attending school due to the high cost of school fees, according to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Committee. Many impoverished people in Zimbabwe live in rural areas, and Zimbabwe’s rural population makes up 67 percent of the country’s total.

The international community is working to fight school dropout rates. In 2010, through the Education Transition Fund (ETF), UNICEF provided 23 million textbooks to students in Zimbabwe, helping the country reach a one-to-one student-textbook ratio. The fund also helped Zimbabwe create national school grants to help students overcome financial barriers. Through the Second Chance Education Program, the fund supported alternative education opportunities for at least 50,000 children.

In 2015, the U.K. announced it would give $37 million from its Department for International Development to support Zimbabwe’s education sector. Part of the funds goes toward providing quality education for children in rural areas through the School Improvement Grants program.

There are high hopes that support from the international community and pressure from its population will allow Zimbabwe to provide free education once again.

Erica Rawles

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Zimbabwe

Thousands of children are facing starvation and hunger in Zimbabwe due to the worst drought in two decades. According to the World Food Programme, nearly four million Zimbabweans are struggling to meet their basic food needs.

Zimbabwe is considered a food-deficit country, ranked 156 out of 187 on the Global Hunger Index. Although food insecurity affects people of all ages, it is even more detrimental to children.

Studies show that proper nutrition is critical to children’s physical and emotional development. Children struggling with hunger are more likely to repeat a grade in primary school, experience impairments in language and motor skills, or have social and behavioral problems.

In Zimbabwe, only 17.3% of children between the ages of two and six receive the recommended minimum diet for adequate nutrition. A child suffering from malnutrition is more likely to contract diseases, such as HIV, or suffer from stunting. Currently, one in every three Zimbabwean children suffers from chronic malnutrition or stunting. Stunting alone contributes to more than 12,000 deaths per year.

Hunger in Zimbabwe has become a major issue, particularly for low-income families and their children. Struggling families are often pressured to accept a dowry for their young daughters. This provides food for the rest of the family, as well as a potentially more food-secure situation for their daughter.

Approximately one out of every three girls in Zimbabwe are married before their 18th birthday. Girls living in the poorest 20% of households were more than four times as likely to marry before the age of 18 than those living in the wealthiest 20% of households.

Both poverty and hunger in Zimbabwe have resulted in an unsafe environment for children.

In order to combat hunger in Zimbabwe, the World Food Programme has implemented the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO). The three primary focus areas of the operation are disaster response, food assistance and nutrition.

The disaster response and risk reduction program are designed to support food-insecure households affected by severe drought during the growing season.

Food Assistance for Assets provides cash and in-kind transfers, along with activities that promote self-reliance. It empowers vulnerable communities to move away from a dependence on food assistance.

The health and nutrition promotion is responsible for the Moderately Acutely Malnourished treatment, which assists pregnant and nursing women and children under the age of five. A stunting prevention program was also established in the same district.

With the help of the World Food Programme and other international organizations, hunger in Zimbabwe is decreasing and children are able to live healthier and happier lives.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr

Improve education

Many students living in poverty realize that education is important. Some living in the remote communities of Zimbabwe are even willing to walk several dangerous miles to get to school. These young students often face a difficult choice: leave home before dawn and risk being assaulted on the way to school or live in poor conditions and be closer to school. To improve education in Zimbabwe, the World Bicycle Relief has started distributing bikes to young students to help them reach school safely.

Transportation can be a huge issue that keeps children out of school or puts them at risk in transit. Girls are often the victims of sexual assault; on the way to school they run the risk of falling victim to sexual abuse and prostitution.

Getting to school by bicycle can help alleviate this danger, as a girl named Blessing states that her 7-mile walk becomes a bike ride of under an hour. Similarly, a girl named Ethel has said that her bicycle saved her enough time to keep up with her studies. With this new mode of transportation, she can even give rides to other students. In contrast, girls who cannot bike to school are forced to spend many nights in dangerous areas in order to get to school on time.

The World Bicycle Relief’s model of the organization is simple: bicycles are used as a method of empowerment. Moreover, the organization’s education efforts have not only been set up in Zimbabwe, but also in Zambia and in South Africa. At present, the World Bicycle Relief has distributed over 24,212 bikes. Students selected by their schools receive safety training and a bicycle. In exchange, young students sign a contract agreeing to attend school regularly.

The World Bicycle Relief also distributes bikes to entrepreneurs, healthcare providers, field mechanics and even ‘tree-preneurs’ (students who plant and nurture 150 saplings in exchange for a bike). Bicycles can therefore help the whole communities in ways beyond education in Zimbabwe, as they make it easier to get to necessary hospital services or to run other critical errands. Field mechanics are trained and given the tools to start their own bicycle businesses in order to multiply this effort.

The World Bicycle Relief has been providing transportation to many people throughout southern Africa. Their efforts to improve education in Zimbabwe as well as other countries are empowering children to take control of their education. By reducing the commute time and the risk involved in getting to school, the overall quality of life of youth living in remote regions improves.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr

Hunger_in_ZimbabweNineteen-year-old social entrepreneur, Farai Munjoma, was inspired to create Shasha iSeminar to help end poverty and hunger in Zimbabwe.

Shasha iSeminar is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing individuals living in poverty in Zimbabwe with access to educational materials. Munjoma believes with the rise of knowledge comes the decline of poverty.

Shasha iSeminar bridges the education gap by using technology and broadband connection, which is prominent in the country, to connect with people. Munjoma’s vision is to end poverty across the continent and views empowerment as critical to achieving this goal.

The free online classroom offers high school students an online library, career guidance, notes and access to past exams to help guide them through the material. The website is divided into several sections, giving students the opportunity to check out a creative center, learn about recent news and events and learn about careers related to their interests.

Since its introduction in 2014, Shasha iSeminar has changed the face of digital platforms in Africa. The website has received acclaim from students all around Zimbabwe, and it has helped many achieve their academic goals.

Munjoma began collecting material for the website when he was 17 and decided to make it free of charge to help break the financial barrier that prevents many in Zimbabwe from receiving an education.

Recently, Munjoma was one of 12 finalists for the Anzisha Prize, an award given to young entrepreneurs in Africa working for the greater the good. Since being a finalist for the award, Munjoma has continued his education at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, receiving a Merit Global Scholarship. Munjoma hopes to use his newfound knowledge to further Shasha iSeminar’s progress and reach, to continue to attempt to end poverty and hunger in Zimbabwe.

In the future, Munjoma wants to expand Shasha iSeminar into Zimbabwe’s neighboring countries, like Botswana and Mozambique. He also hopes to expand the website’s reach by developing online classrooms and seminars, where students can meet and learn from actual professors and engage with students in real time. Although this idea presents several challenges, like a large learning curve and slow internet, Munjoma is determined to see it through.

Julia Hettiger

Photo: Flickr

USAID FundsIn the southern African country of Zimbabwe, according to Deutsche Welle, the number of individuals requiring emergency food aid has increased from three to four million, as the nation is caught in a severe drought, induced by one of the most forceful El Niño weather patterns of the last 50 years. In response to the crisis, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the U.S. government has contributed an additional $10 million adding to the $25 million contributed to drought relief since June 2015 via the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

This extra emergency food aid will secure adequate supplies for 600,000 rural Zimbabweans who are experiencing their second straight year of drought due to the devastation generated by El Niño. $5 million of the donation, which was officially handed over to the WFP by U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Harry K. Thomas Jr., will be used to provide emergency food supplies and cash allocations for the most at risk Zimbabweans.

The supplementary funds from USAID will allow the WFP to reach more emergency food aid to Zimbabwe’s most at-risk individuals. The WFP noted that in addition to revitalizing existing operations in eight districts already receiving assistance (Zvishavane, Mudzi, Hwange, Binga, Chiredzi, Mwenezi, Kariba and Mbire) it will add three more districts: Chipinge, Mangwe and Uzuma Maramba Plungwe, to reach those most in need of emergency food aid. “With this funding, we will continue to pursue our goal to reach zero hunger in Zimbabwe by investing in resilience-building activities while meeting the immediate needs of the most vulnerable people during this difficult time,” said WFP Zimbabwe County Director Eddie Rowe.

The additional $5 million USAID funds will be used by the WFP to resume its Productive Asset Creation program. This will, said the WFP, allocate monthly food rations or cash transfers to the most disadvantaged Zimbabweans in exchange for labor on community possessions such as irrigation schemes, dip tanks and dams. The assistance will improve rural infrastructure and at the same time improve economic conditions for those rural populations.

In response to the emergency food aid crisis, the WFP also plans to extend its relief program for those who have been hardest hit by food insecurity in Zimbabwe.

The calamitous weather conditions in the country have been a major cause of the extensive crop failure and livestock deaths across the country. The WFP reports that Zimbabwe’s 2014/15 agricultural season recorded a 51 percent decline in maize production compared with the 2013/14 season due to drought, which was exceptionally severe in the south of the country.

These exceptional circumstances have thus propelled the WFP to adjust their relief program and extend it, due to the extreme and ominous impact of El Niño. WFP’s seasonal relief, intended to help individuals through difficult pre-harvest months, typically is in operation from October to March. This year, for the first time, food and cash assistance will continue throughout 2016 and into 2017.

Heidi Grossman