I travelled to Zimbabwe in April where a mainly EU sponsored, multi-donor Health Transition Fund is supposed to help the national health system recover from the country’s 2002-2008 economic crisis. Skilled doctors and nurses had left Zimbabwe in droves, medicine supply had dried up and entire hospitals, including operating theatres, had to close down.
Mothers and babies suffer the most under the crumbling health system. Every day, eight women and 100 children die in Zimbabwe from pregnancy- and delivery-related complications. Thanks to foreign funding, the conditions of the health system are improving, but only slowly. In a district hospital in Masvingo province, there is no running water most days. Power outages are frequent, the hospital kitchen is out of order and so are the washing machines. Resuscitation machines and much other life-saving equipment is broken, too. Drug shortages remain frequent.
While I was in Harare and Masvingo province, political tension could be felt wherever we went. We were either accompanied by a government official, or saw undercover intelligence officers lurking in the background. President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF continues to have the country firmly under control. Ordinary Zimbabweans say they feel intimidated on a daily basis and not free to speak their minds. With elections scheduled for the second half of 2013, the atmosphere in the country is becoming tenser with every month. Soon, the doors will be closed on foreign journalists completely.