Skip to Main Content
Printer Friendly Home > Press > Press Releases

For Immediate Release

Health System Collapse Requires International Intervention, Concludes PHR Report

Cambridge, Mass - 01/13/2009

An international team of doctors and human rights advocates convened by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) to conduct an emergency assessment of Zimbabwe’s health crisis has found the health system is in utter collapse. The collapsed health care system threatens the people of Zimbabwe and in the entire region. In addition to the widely reported cholera epidemic, the report highlights increases in maternal mortality, growing malnutrition, disruptions in HIV/AIDS treatment, unchecked tuberculosis, and outbreaks of anthrax. This report highlights related human rights violations and explains why the Mugabe regime must be held accountable for this man-made disaster.

Johannesburg, South Africa January 13, 2009 – Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has published a report showing how the cholera epidemic which ravages Zimbabwe is but one symptom of an utter collapse of the country’s health system, and documenting how the Mugabe regime’s human rights violations contributed to this man-made disaster.

"The report released today by Physicians for Human Rights further documents that the people of Zimbabwe are being denied the most basic of life’s necessities – access to healthcare, food, clean water, even life itself,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a statement endorsing the report. "The world must take action against the Mugabe regime for these crimes against humanity.”

"Mugabe’s regime has violated international human rights and abrogated the most basic state function in protecting its people’s health,” said Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights and contributor to the report.

The preface to the report, co-authored by Justice Richard J. Goldstone, Mary Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu questions: "What happens when a government presides over the dramatic reversal of its population’s access to food, clean water, basic sanitation, and healthcare? When government policies lead directly to the shuttering of hospitals and clinics, the closing of its medical school, and the beatings of health workers, are we to consider the attendant deaths and injuries as any different from those resulting from a massacre of similar proportions?”

Goldstone is former Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and a current PHR Board Member. Robinson is a former president of Ireland and is chair of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative. She also served the United Nations as a High Commissioner for Human Rights. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Capetown and Chair, The Elders.

Read the related Press Release Doctors Call Zimbabwe’s Ruined Health System a "Man-Made Disaster”
Download PHR’s Health in Ruins: A Man-Made Disaster in Zimbabwe (PDF): Full report - Summary
PHR released a short online video entitled La Fleuve du Mal which is available on YouTube.
PHR’s photographs are also available on Flickr.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

PHR News