Since its independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has experienced a tense political environment and an unstable economy. To tackle its financial challenges, the country is creating initiatives to rejuvenate the economy, including replacing the national currency with the American dollar for international trade. While the economy has improved significantly in recent years, the public health situation continues to deteriorate. High rates of malnutrition, alarming numbers of HIV and AIDS cases, and frequent cholera outbreaks are huge humanitarian challenges.
Many Zimbabweans suffer from malnutrition coupled with HIV/AIDS infections, but the country’s massively deteriorated public health system is not properly equipped to handle this double threat. Since Action Against Hunger started in Zimbabwe in 2002, we have committed to integrating HIV and AIDS education and treatment in all of the programs that we conduct. Approximately 70% of patients diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition also have HIV/AIDS, and our nutrition programs are specifically designed to treat this particularly vulnerable group.
Problems with sanitation and food security contribute to high rates of malnutrition and complicate HIV/AIDS cases. Rampant water-borne diseases such as cholera compound health problems for already unhealthy populations. To prevent the spread of cholera, we are restoring water points, constructing latrines, and teaching hygiene workshops. We are also implementing food security programs specifically designed to help those living with HIV/AIDS receive proper nutrition.
Despite these health challenges, progress is being made. In recent years, we have built our capacity to respond to emergencies while preparing for longer-term development projects. Partnerships with local government agencies have helped us promote our programs and train local workers. These developments have a positive impact on the sustainability of our programs and support our long-term goals in Zimbabwe.