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Background on the Health Crisis in Zimbabwe

Health Crisis in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a country battered and torn by political strife, infrastructure collapse and grave human rights abuses. The government of Robert Mugabe presided over the dramatic reversal of its population's access to food, clean water, basic sanitation, and healthcare. His government’s policies lead directly to the shuttering of hospitals and clinics, the closing of its medical school, and the beatings of health workers.

Our Investigation

In 2008, Physicians for Human Rights witnessed the utter collapse of Zimbabwe's health system, once a model in southern Africa. In 2009, we released our shocking findings in the report Health in Ruins: PHR Reports on the Man-Made Health Crisis in Zimbabwe, and called into question the legitimacy of a regime that abrogated the most basic state functions in protecting the health of the population. As the report documents, the Mugabe regime has used any means at its disposal, including politicizing the health sector, to maintain its hold on power. Instead of fulfilling its obligation to progressively realize the right to health for the people of Zimbabwe, the Government has taken the country backwards, which has enabled the destruction of health, water, and sanitation – all with fatal consequences.

The new unity government has yet to address the human rights crisis. Zimbabwean security forces continue to target human rights defenders and political activists. Meanwhile, the health system remains in ruins. While the cholera epidemic still rages, tuberculosis may soon take its place as a leading cause of death in Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe urgently need food, housing, essential health care, safe drinking water, sanitation and education.

PHR has partnered with AmnestyInternational in calling for the United Nations and the African Union to send civilian human rights monitors to Zimbabwe to forestall further human rights abuses and to help ensure Zimbabwe’s fledgling unity government’s transition toward democracy and rule of law.

Learn more at

Read Health in Ruins: PHR Reports on the Man-Made Health Crisis in Zimbabwe