Zimbabwe

Health in ruins: A man-made disaster in Zimbabwe

Attachments

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

Physicians for Human Rights sent an emergency delegation to Zimbabwe in December 2008 to investigate the collapse of healthcare. The health and nutritional status of Zimbabwe's people has acutely worsened this past year due to a cholera epidemic, high maternal mortality, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and anthrax. The 2008 cholera epidemic that continues in 2009 is an outcome of the health systems collapse, and of the failure of the state to maintain safe water and sanitation. This disaster is man-made, was likely preventable, and has become a regional issue since the spread of cholera to neighbor states.

The health crisis in Zimbabwe is a direct outcome of the violation of a number of human rights, including the right to participate in government and in free elections and the right to a standard of living adequate for one's health and well being, including food, medical care, and necessary social services. Robert Mugabe's ZANUPF regime continues to violate Zimbabweans' civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. The collapse of Zimbabwe's health system in 2008 is unprecedented in scale and scope. Public-sector hospitals have been shuttered since November 2008. While some facilities remain open in the private sector, these are operating on a US-dollar system and are charging fees ranging from $200 USD in cash for a consultation, $500 USD for an in-patient bed, and $3,000 USD for a Cesarean section. With fees in reach for only the wealthy, the majority are being denied access to health care.

The collapse of Zimbabwe's health system in 2008 is unprecedented in scale and scope. Public-sector hospitals have been shuttered since November 2008. While some facilities remain open in the private sector, these are operating on a US-dollar system and are charging fees ranging from $200 USD in cash for a consultation, $500 USD for an in-patient bed, and $3,000 USD for a Cesarean section. With fees in reach for only the wealthy, the majority are being denied access to health care.

International human rights framework »

Zimbabwe is a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR or the Covenant), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. The Government has a legally binding obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill these rights for all people within its jurisdiction.

The right to health imposes core obligations, which require access to health facilities on a nondiscriminatory basis, the provision of a minimum essential package of health-related services and facilities, including essential food, basic sanitation and adequate water, essential medicines, and sexual and reproductive health services, including obstetric care. Even with limited resources, the Government is required to give first priority to the most basic health needs of the population and to the most vulnerable sections of the population.

Methods for this investigation »

During a seven-day investigation to Zimbabwe (13- 20 December 2008) conducted by four human rights investigators, including two physicians with expertise in public health and epidemiology, PHR interviewed and met with 92 participants, including healthcare workers in private and public hospitals and clinics, medical students from both of the medical schools in Zimbabwe, representatives from local and international NGOs, representatives from U.N. agencies, Zimbabwean government health officials, members of parliament, water and sanitation engineers, farmers, and school teachers. The PHR team visited four of the ten provinces in Zimbabwe, in both urban and rural areas. Provinces visited included Harare, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, and Mashonaland East.