9th April

“ Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

– World Health Organisation –

For the last 76 years, the 7th of April has been commemorated as World Health Day. The day was established in 1948, marking the very first meeting of the World Health Assembly which became known as the World Health Organisation [WHO].

My Health, My Right

This year, the day is celebrated under the banner “My health, My right”. The theme  serves as a reminder to all of the importance of the right to health. It highlights that health is not an optional or secondary provision and invites all to reflect on whether or not the right has been adequately afforded to all.

The Right to Health In Zimbabwe

The right to health in Zimbabwe is given under section 76 of the Constitution. The section states:

·        Section 76(1) – Every Citizen and Permanent Resident of Zimbabwe has the right to access basic health-care services, which include reproductive health-care services

·        Section 76 (2) – Every person living with a chronic illness has a right to have access to basic health-care services for the illness

·        Section 76 (3) – No person may be refused emergency medical treatment in any health- care institution

·        Section 76 4) – The State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of the rights set out in this section

Under this section, it is clear that efforts are to be made by the State to ensure that health is available, accessible, acceptable and of adequate quality. 

It must also be borne in mind that the right to health is multi-faceted.  It is a right that works in tandem with other rights and can only be fully realised when other rights are recognised and given effect to.  For example, for the right to health to be effective, the rights to dignity, water and nutrition must be realised as well.

Although the right to health is limited to the availability of State resources, this caveat must not be used as an excuse to abandon the health system all together. 

In committing itself to the progressive realisation of health, the State has committed itself to go “beyond the money” and come up with tangible solutions to health crises , working in partnership with organisations and eradicating corruption in the health system.

Healthcare in Zimbabwe

At present, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), states that HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are the top three major threats to life in the country. In late 2023, Zimbabwe also suffered a cholera epidemic which further burdened the already weary health care system. 

 According to ReliefWeb, over 200 people were being diagnosed with cholera daily in January 2024 and reports show that healthcare facilities had very little capacity to deal with these numbers.

  Major hospitals such as Sally Mugabe Central Hospital were reported to be out of basic drugs such as painkillers, had no running water and had a shortage of Intensive Care Unit beds – with three beds being said to be functional at the end of 2023.

Sally Mugabe Hospital is the second largest government central hospital in the nation. Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals is said to be better but the general populace continues to complain about waiting times and shortages of general drugs.

In 2001, Zimbabwe signed the Abuja Declaration which obligates the country to set aside at least 15% of its national budget for healthcare. In 2023 however, only 11% of the budget was directed at the healthcare system. Generally, financial commitment to socio-economic rights has been low and the effects have been harsh on all.

Massive Drug Addiction Problem

Sadly, that although there is a problem accessing the medicinal drugs needed for health care, there is a massive problem with addictive drug use,.  UNICEF states that 47% of people across a pool of five provinces in Zimbabwe are said to be cough syrup users whilst 36% use crystal meth and 67% are addicted to cannabis. This has also become an added strain to our health system as rehab centres are running out of space to cater for these people, who are mainly youths.

World Health Day

As we commemorate World Health Day, we are offered a chance to think about what the right to health means to every single Zimbabwean. We must rethink how we as citizens claim our rights, especially our right to health, from the State.

Throughout the years, Veritas has made several calls for reform in the health sector.  This year, we are facing a heath emergency and urge the Ministry of Health and Child Care to make an effort to act: – to repair hospital facilities, to supply adequate drugs and equipment to them and above all to pay health staff realistic salaries to stop them being forced to leave to countries where they can earn a living salary. 

The right to health does not operate in a silo and the State is also urged to do something about youth unemployment – one of the major causes of our addiction problem and to ensure other rights are adequately realised to give our young people hope for their future. 

 It is our hope that next year we can make a positive report on changes implemented through 2024.

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