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Zimbabwe: A partnership for life

23-01-2014 Feature

Nearly 1.4 million people in Zimbabwe benefited from ICRC assistance to primary health-care centres between 2006 and 2013. As the assistance ends, we examine the impact and legacy for communities and health personnel in Chivi, Makoni and Tsholotso districts, and for the City of Harare.

Pregnant women prepare a meal.
Waiting Mothers’ Shelter, Ngundu Clinic, Chivi district, Zimbabwe, 2010.
© ICRC / O. Moeckli

The ICRC renovated the Waiting Mothers' Shelter to reduce the number of women who either had to give birth at home with limited medical support, or else had to walk long distances after labour had already started. This was especially important if there were complications. The Shelter enables women to wait safely for delivery on the premises of the clinic in the final days of their pregnancy, with nurses available to assist them and the opportunity to share experiences with other pregnant women.

Renovating health centre infrastructure was one aspect of the ICRC programme, which started with support for 16 health centres in Chivi, Makoni and Tsholotsho districts in 2006. In 2008 and 2009, the programme expanded to include 12 health centres in the City of Harare. The ICRC handed over the completed assistance programmes to local authorities in Chivi, Makoni and Tsholotsho in 2009 and 2010, and in Harare in 2013. 


A new-born baby lies in a baby warmer.
Maternity ward, Mabvuku Polyclinic, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2011.

© ICRC / D. Hove

With an average of 178 babies born every month at each ICRC-supported health centre in Harare in 2013, the baby warmers donated by the ICRC have helped save the lives of many babies born with hypothermia-related complications.


An incinerator operator disposes of medical waste using a purpose-built incinerator.
Mbare Polyclinic, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2012
© ICRC / J. Dendere

The ICRC installed incinerators at eight health centres around the city, to improve medical waste management and prevent the spread of disease. We also trained City of Harare personnel in the maintenance of the incinerators, and they are now responsible for their day-to-day care. Similar facilities adapted to the local environment were also constructed at selected health centres in Chivi, Makoni and Tsholotsho districts. 


Women pump water from a borehole.
Mayo 1 Clinic, Makoni district, Zimbabwe, 2013.

© ICRC / J. Dendere

Health centres need plenty of clean water, so installing boreholes and storage tanks at health centres in Chivi, Makoni and Tsholotsho districts has made it easier to provide good health care. In Harare, the ICRC renovated boreholes at health centres and installed storage tanks. Reliable water supplies meant that more people could use ICRC-supported health centres.


A senior nurse and the nurse in charge of the drug store check medicine stocks in the dispensary.
Mbare Polyclinic, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2013.

© ICRC / J. Dendere

ICRC support to the clinic included providing essential medicines and medical consumables to health centres. This helped to improve health care in communities and reduced the demand for services at referral hospitals, as people could get treatment locally. 


Two nurses from Sodaka Clinic.
Sodaka Clinic, Tsholotsho rural district, Zimbabwe, 2010.

© ICRC / T. Sibanda

The ICRC has been helping train health personnel. Topics covered between 2006 and 2013 included obstetric emergencies and neonatal care, infection prevention and control, and cervical cancer screening and treatment. In Harare, the ICRC supported consultations to identify additional sources of finance for the Health Services department and for implementation of the city’s 2010-2015 Health Services Strategic Plan.


Between 2006 and 2013, the ICRC:

  • provided quality primary health care for nearly 1.4 million people (10% of the population);
  • supported health centres that between them carried out over 7 million consultations;
  • donated over USD 3 million of essential medicines and consumables;
  • supported 33 health centres.

See also: Zimbabwe: ICRC support for primary health care services – 2006 to 2013