The devastating cholera epidemic of 2008 in Zimbabwe, in which thousands of people died, was the worst consequence of the dramatic situation facing health in that country. This disaster is primarily a political one: Since the collapse of the healthcare system in the 1990s the situation has continued to deteriorate and diseases that could be prevented by clean water supply are spreading.
The crisis has inspired a committed health movement whose members include medico’s partner Community Working Group on Health. As its name implies, civil society is a key focus. The CWGH is closely linked to the local community through its grassroots structures: 25 regional health committees provide the community with expertise and tools they can use to work together to improve their own situation. The committees were also active during the cholera epidemic. Through their health centres they provided information on prevention measures and distributed sanitary products to prevent the disease from spreading further.
The CWGH combines its action on health with criticism of the government: ‘The crisis in healthcare is partly to blame on the increasing number of people with no access to education, transport or water;’ says Itai Rusike. CWGH is therefore attempting to raise the profile of basic health care on the political agenda and is currently campaigning for the right to health to be adopted in Zimbabwe’s new constitution.