Poverty & Healthcare

Modern & traditional healers

Provision of basic health care services is patchy in Zimbabwe. Medical facilities have particularly suffered from a shortage of drugs, though recently hospitals have been reporting better medicine stocks again.

A lack of trained medical staff remains a significant problem. Many health professionals have left the country to find better salaries and working conditions elsewhere.

  • Girl in Bindura looking through an opened window
  • Children posing for the camera

During 2000-2010, Zimbabwe had fewer than two doctors for every 10,000 people according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A recent report has also highlighted that around 80% of posts for midwives remain vacant in the public sector.

Many Zimbabweans use traditional healers, who offer both spiritual and medicinal advice. These healers provide herbal remedies for minor ailments and may also treat more serious illnesses, particularly psychological or psychiatric problems.

Common illnesses

Without parents...

Sickness and death from HIV/AIDS have caused much suffering among the population.

One million children have lost either one or both parents to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. And the United Nations Children's Agency (UNICEF) estimates another 400,000 have lost parents due to other causes.

Around one million people aged 15 or above (just over 14% of the adult population) are infected with HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and life expectancy in Zimbabwe fell to just 49 years in 2009.

The government has scaled up HIV/AIDS treatment programmes, which have reduced prevalence of the disease. However, drugs only work effectively when people are receiving adequate nutrition. In some areas, HIV sufferers have reportedly been selling their medication to buy food.

It's a fact...

Less than half the population has access to proper sanitation.

As with many countries in the region, malaria is also a huge threat in Zimbabwe, mainly in the low-lying border areas. In 2009, over 760,000 cases of malaria were recorded (WHO). Diseases resulting from poor sanitation are also a serious health issue; for example, Zimbabwe suffers from regular outbreaks of cholera.

Food shortages

The HIV/AIDS epidemic reduced the number of people working in agriculture, especially as women became too sick to work or had to abandon the fields to care for relatives. As the workforce has shrunk, and some farms have become less productive, food shortages are a constant worry.

The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) believes that as many as one in three children in Zimbabwe now suffer from chronic malnutrition.

At one stage, the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) was feeding at least half of Zimbabwe’s population. Harvests have improved in recent years and the percentage of people being supported dropped to 15% in 2010, mostly families living in rural areas. However, some of the 2011 harvest was destroyed by floods. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which monitors food security, says millions of Zimbabweans may again require food assistance.