Health challenges

In the 1980s and early 1990s Zimbabwe had one of the best primary health care systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Political and economic challenges since then have led to a chronic under investment in the health sector and a significant, if not alarming, deterioration in health indicators.

The local health sector faces many challenges: a chronic shortage of skilled professionals and health-care staff; weak health infrastructure with ill-equipped hospitals, and a lack of essential medicines and commodities.

The system breakdown has been worsened by humanitarian crises such as the cholera and measles epidemics between 2008 and 2010, by poor maternal and child health services, and by the high numbers of people living with HIV.

The major health problems currently affecting Zimbabwe according to the World Health Organization are:

  • One of the highest rates of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth - 725/100,000 (NHS 2009-2013).

  • More than 34 per cent of children are chronically malnourished and stunted (FNC 2010)

  • Under 5 mortality - one of the leading causes of mortality of children aged under five is HIV and AIDS, accounting for more than 20 per cent of deaths (WHO Global Health Observatory Data 2010). In 2009 it was estimated that more than one million children in Zimbabwe had been orphaned by AIDS.

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is another major public health problem with an estimated 431 active cases of TB per 100,000 population (WHO Health profile 2009)

  • Life expectancy is low at around 52 years (UNDP HDR 2011).

Burnet’s work

We will predominantly be working through implementing partners. Our approach will be to strengthen former partnerships, as well as to develop key new relationships with local partners who demonstrate clear synergies, shared values and a thematic focus that is clearly aligned with Burnet’s.

These will be public health projects and research focused on maternal and child health, infectious diseases, sexual and reproductive health, and young people’s health.

Contact Details

For more information about our work in Zimbabwe, please contact:

Mary-Ann Nicholas

Head, Project Management Office





Current Projects

  • Improved point-of-care test to eliminate congenital syphilis

  • Rapid review of maternal health recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • The Mbereko + Men Model: Rural Zimbabwe