|Africa University researchers address health issues|
Torrential rains cause the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe to overflow its
banks in 2008. Africa University graduate student Donwell Dube examined
how water governance can minimize water-related disease outbreaks.
A UMNS file photo by the Rev. Jacob Jenhuro.
By Andra Stevens*
June 23, 2009 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
When cholera struck Harare, Zimbabwe, during the past year, one of
the worst-affected areas was the high-density suburb of Budiriro.
Donwell Dube, 39, a graduate student at United Methodist-related Africa University,
wanted to study how effective humanitarian aid was in the response to
the cholera outbreak and chose Budiriro as a case study.
What he discovered was that critical water governance issues must be
resolved to remove the threat of water-related disease outbreaks.
Dube was one of several Africa University graduate students
focused on documenting community experiences with conflict and disease
in hopes of informing policy making and improving the lives of ordinary
citizens. Research was conducted through the university’s Institute of
Peace, Leadership and Governance and in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
According to the World Health Organization, Zimbabwe had 83,631
reported cases of cholera and 3,879 deaths from the disease since
February. Of the total number of cholera cases reported nationally, 68
percent originated from Harare, Manicaland, Mashonaland West and
Masvingo provinces, largely because of inadequate access to water and
Beatrice Musambu (left) and Linnet Mutungura looked at women’s participation in
peace building. A UMNS photo
by Andra Stevens.
In his findings, Dube noted that the intervention of
nongovernmental organizations in the Budiriro crisis was not enough to
solve the community’s water problem.
“The water supply issue in Budiriro needs a broader framework and
all interventions into the cholera outbreak were short term,” he
explained. “The critical issues at stake in Budiriro were not
With a population about 200,000 people, Budiriro was constructed
after Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980 and is found on the
periphery of the water and sewage system of the City of Harare. The
suburb also has no reservoir and is located at a high altitude, making
water provision difficult because Harare’s water supply system is
Needs of prison inmates
Health also is an issue at Zimbabwe’s largest maximum-security
facilities. Roy Tapera, who received a master’s degree in public
health, collected data at Chikurubi Prison in Harare and Khami Prison
in the second-largest city, Bulawayo.
Before pursuing graduate studies, Tapera was a health
promotions officer for the Matabeleland region under the Zimbabwe
“I was stationed at Khami prison and was moved by the plight of
inmates,” he said. “I hope this research will enable me to make
informed recommendations on how the status of our prisoners can be
Tapera found that most institutions had been hurt by the country’s
economic hardships, which he blamed on international sanctions.
“Government is struggling to give them (prisoners) the recommended
three meals a day and failing to provide anti-retroviral treatment to
The lack of proper diet has led to “deficiency diseases, such
as pellagra, and an increase in opportunistic infections and
communicable diseases,” he said. A positive development, however, was
the involvement of humanitarian organizations, including the Red Cross,
in the provision of supplies to inmates.
Tracking women’s representation
Two students who received their master’s degrees in peace and
governance in June, 26-year-old Congolese national Beatrice Musambu and
Linnet Mutungura, a 36-year-old Zimbabwean, looked at women’s
participation in peace building and government.
In a case study of the Kalemie, a district of about 3,000 in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Musamba examined the role of women in peace building processes in the highly volatile Great Lakes region.
Musambu’s findings point to success stories in the demobilization of
child soldiers and rehabilitation of people affected by the war; and
with the life skills training programs in farming, market gardening and
basic literacy that were initiated.
Solomon Mungure investigated the dynamics of conflict and illegal diamond dealing. A UMNS photo
by Andra Stevens.
However, she also found that women, who comprise 53 percent of the
population, were still largely marginalized and excluded from
rehabilitation and self-empowerment programs. In addition, she noted
that between 1998 and 2004, some 25,000 cases of sexual violence
against women were reported.
“There is still a lot of fear in women,” Musambu said. “To this day,
some women are still experiencing gender-based violence, chief
perpetrators being ex-combatants. It is because of this fear that women
are not also willing to participate in rehabilitation programs.”
She has recommended that the Congolese government and civil society
work together to strengthen policies on women’s proportional
representation and better educational opportunities for girls and
Gender policies also were a factor as Mutungura focused on the
traditional leadership system in Zimbabwe, using Sarupinda village,
about 12 miles from Mutare, as her case study. The village has a
population of about 6,000, with women constituting the majority.
She called the system “largely a male-dominated scenario, which is
apathetic to women. Power is still being inherited through men and
women are still being discriminated against.”
From data gathered from a sample of 30 women, Mutungura concluded
that the women had mixed feelings about their exclusion in governance.
Most were comfortable in their existence and saw nothing wrong with the
status quo. “We are happy as we are,” said one respondent. “If you want
to gain status, give birth to a male child.”
The few respondents who were not happy with women’s exclusion wanted
laws to promote women’s involvement. Mutungura advocates programs to
sensitize the current leaders and the communities they serve on the
importance of women’s inclusion in government.
Diamonds and conflict
Solomon Mungure, 41, a graduate student in Institute of Peace,
Leadership and Governance, investigated the dynamics of conflict and
illegal diamond dealing in Chiadzwa, about 37 miles south of Mutare in
In his dissertation, Mungure cited the changes in the economic and
social environment—hyperinflation, high unemployment and persistent
drought—and argued that these pressures pushed people to begin looting
diamonds in Chiadzwa.
One result was an increase in conflict, ranging from those within
local families to those in global trading markets. The illegal diamond
trade involves Zimbabweans and dealers from Lebanon, Mozambique and
Those panning for diamonds “were killing each other rampantly, in
gruesome ways, with hoes and spades for possession of the precious
mineral,” he said. The panners also broke laws, violated sacred
traditions and were responsible for the increase in social ills such as
prostitution and illicit drug dealing.
Statutory instruments prohibiting diamond dealing were not well
enforced. “The police were not capacitated to deal with
diamond cases,” said Mungure. “The state did not have sufficient
machinery for testing and in most cases, illegal diamond dealers went
free without prosecution.”
Government statistics indicate that at the height of the diamond
rush, there were about 35,000 diamond dealers living in panner bases in
Chiadzwa and more than 500 dealer syndicates operating in the area. The
World Federation of Diamond Bourses has banned Chiadzwa diamonds from
*Stevens is director of information and public affairs at Africa University.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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