Daily Archives: March 18, 2014

Zimbabwe: New Climate Plan to Tackle Neglected Needs of Children

Muzarabani — Moses Pfebve of Gombera village was just five when he was swept away, trying to cross the flooded Chematohwa River with other young cattle herders on his way to the communal dip tank in early January.

The boys watched helplessly as Pfebve was taken by a narrow river that usually runs dry for at least 10 months of the year, holding fast to the tails of their animals, as the waters raged around them.

Rain of over 30cm in a week had turned the flat lands of Muzarabani into a sea, with rivers overflowing, villagers marooned, homes and crops washed away, and 13 bridges completely destroyed.

A hot, semi-arid rural farming area 300km north of the capital Harare, Muzarabani usually receives less than 40cm of rain during the main rainy season from December to February.

Pfebve’s mother, Chatisai Dzuda, a 35-year-old disabled farmer, was devastated by the loss of her son to the rains, which are usually considered a blessing.

“The picture of Moses floating lifelessly in those waters has never left my mind. I am deeply hurt that I could not do anything to save my son. It is a heavy load to carry,” said the mother of two, trembling with emotion.

Elsewhere in Muzarabani, Matthew Matanhura, three, and his sister Priscilla Matanhura, four, were also swept away by torrential rains that flooded their homestead in Shambakumanja village. The siblings had been left playing under a tree while their parents were out working in the fields.

Climate impacts on Zimbabwean children – from death, hunger and disease to displacement and loss of education – have been largely underestimated or even ignored until now.

Those most at risk are in rural areas where poverty is rife, and access to safe water and sanitation has declined in the past decade and a half.

But that neglect is set to change with the upcoming publication of Zimbabwe’s National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS), which takes their needs into account, experts have told Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Work started on the climate strategy in 2012, and it is expected to be released by the end of March, according to Sara Feresu, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe’s Institute of Environmental Studies (IES), which is leading the process.

The inclusion of children is mainly thanks to work by the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The local office of the children’s agency, in partnership with the IES, carried out a study on the impacts of climate change on children and other vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe.

The preliminary findings of that research, due to be published imminently, have been fed into the NCCRS, which is intended to integrate climate change into Zimbabwe’s budget and development planning.

The UNICEF report will show serious gaps in climate change education in the national curriculum, as well as a lack of financial support and natural assets for children and young people to fall back on when disasters hit, sources say.

HIV and AIDS, in a country with a prevalence rate of 15 percent, have created many child-headed families, which are vulnerable to shocks including climate change, the study will say.

Nonetheless, it also finds that children and young people possess energy and enthusiasm that could be harnessed in climate change responses.

“It is understood that by using a child’s lens to examine adaptation measures to cope with the impact of climate change, it (the research) shall ensure that the relevant issues will be captured in national policies,” Samson Muradzikwa, UNICEF’s chief of social policy, said by email.

The UNICEF study gathered children’s views through questionnaires in schools nationwide, community discussions, workshops with children and youth, and policy dialogues. Baseline surveys and case studies in drought and flood-prone rural areas were also carried out, together with a review of existing policies.

As a result, Muradzikwa said the draft NCCRS includes ways of assessing children’s specific vulnerabilities and identifying how these will be magnified by climate change so that they can be addressed in national responses.


In Muzarabani, that can’t come too soon. Local Member of Parliament Alfred Mufunga told Thomson Reuters Foundation that over 80 children in his constituency were homeless after the floods destroyed 23 houses.

He said no government assistance had been received, although the International Organisation for Migration had provided some food aid, and local churches had given ill-fitting clothes.

At Tokwe-Mukosi dam in Masvingo Province, 400km south of Harare, at least 2,300 children are out of school and unlikely to return soon. In early February, rising waters breached the 680m-high dam wall currently under construction, flooding the river basin and displacing 20,000 people and 18,000 cattle, goats and donkeys.

The floods destroyed schools, homes and other public infrastructure. The central government is now looking for $9 million in international aid to build six new primary schools at Nuanetsi Ranch, where the families are being relocated.

Without donor aid, the government will struggle to deliver the schools, as Zimbabwe has been running a budget deficit averaging 4 percent of gross domestic product since 2009, putting severe limits on capital expenditure.

UNICEF’s Muradzikwa said climate change is slowing Zimbabwe’s progress towards achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals, such as those on reducing poverty and hunger.

It is also hampering the government’s ability to meet commitments under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide adequate health care, a safe environment, shelter, education and a balanced diet, he said.

“Protecting the environment and providing for the health, education and development of children are mutually inclusive goals,” Muradzikwa added.


Climate change also increases the threat of malaria in tropical regions like Zimbabwe, where one in every three people lives in risk areas. The disease disproportionately affects young children.

In 1996, at least 1.4 million cases of malaria were reported across the country following heavy rains and high temperatures. Some 6,000 people died, mostly children.

Similarly, the prevalence of water-, air- and vector-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea, cholera and bilharzia (schistosomiasis), is expected to increase in areas where higher levels of rainfall are projected.

Washington Zhakata, national climate change coordinator in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, said children in rural areas are also disadvantaged by depletion of water resources, multiplying the distance they must travel to water points.

Many children are tasked with fetching water for livestock before heading to class. “By the time they (kids) go to school they will be tired, and others eventually drop out,” Zhakata said by telephone.

Children’s previously unheard voices have been incorporated into the new climate strategy through their participation in two national-level consultative workshops, he added. They also took part in 22 provincial meetings held by the climate ministry between September and November 2013.

Terrence Mushore, a lecturer at the Bindura University of Science Education, said studies show that average temperatures in Zimbabwe have climbed 0.7 degrees Celsius since the 1960s.

Rainfall has declined 5 percent in the northern half of the country and 15 percent in the south, particularly in Matebeleleland and Masvingo provinces. Here droughts have become more frequent, affecting the agriculture-dependent economy.

Climate models predict that rainfall will decrease across Zimbabwe in the future, Mushore said. By the 2080s, annual rainfall is projected to be between 5 and 18 percent lower than the 1961-1990 average, he added.

Low-lying areas like Muzarabani have become dangerous hotspots for climate and weather extremes, according to Linear Mushawi, head of climate at the local meteorological services department.

The region is still smarting from the damage to public infrastructure caused by Cyclone Eline in 2000 and Cyclone Japhet in 2003, Mushawi added.

Jeffrey Gogo is a climate change and environmental journalist/columnist with The Herald, Zimbabwe’s biggest daily.

waDube housing project a promise of a better life

By: Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria: The KwaDube Rural Housing Project in KwaZulu-Natal is the beginning of the promised better life for the people of KwaDube and the Greater uMhlathuze Municipality, says Human Settlements and Public Works MEC Ravigasen Pillay.

On Tuesday, MEC Pillay handed over the R110-million KwaDube housing project near Esikhaleni.

He said the project in KwaZulu-Natal was a clear demonstration of government’s commitment to create sustainable human settlements.

“For the next five years until 2019, we have committed to provide one million housing opportunities for qualifying households in urban and rural settlements.

“This will be coupled with an accelerated provision of basic services and infrastructure in all existing informal settlements,” he said.

The MEC said the department will also increase the supply of affordable housing by mobilising housing allowances for teachers, nurses, police officers, office workers and several others who fall in the gap market.

The project, which commenced in June last year, consists of 1 500 housing units. The scheduled date for completion is December 2015.

According to the MEC, so far, more than 700 houses have been completed.

“One remarkable thing about this project is that it straddles about five wards and this ensures the even distribution of housing opportunities to all.

“Despite the limited financial resources, I am happy that as government we remain focused in ensuring that we bring dignity to our people.

“We have committed ourselves to ensuring that there is stringent adherence to building regulations so that we leave no room for shoddy workmanship,” he said.

Last Thursday, the MEC was at the neighbouring uMlalazi municipality, where he handed over the R78-million Bhekeshowe Rural Housing Project, which is to help 1 000 beneficiaries.

Apart from the KwaDube Rural Housing Project, the department, in partnership with the uMhlathuze Municipality, is involved in numerous projects within the area of jurisdiction of the municipality.

These include the KwaMkhwanazi Housing Project, which the MEC launched in April 2012; the Mhlathuze Village in its different phases; KwaBhejane Rural Housing as well as Madlebe Housing Project.

“We also have a project in the pre-planning stage at Aquadene. I am very encouraged at the pace that uMhlathuze Municipality has implemented some of these projects,” said MEC Pillay.

He further promised that the departmental Consumer Education Section will visit the project next week to inform the new beneficiaries what is expected of them, now that they are owners of the houses.


tatistician Pali Lehohla on mortality and causes of death, 2011

Is South Africa at crossroads? A shift in the burden of disease in South Africa points to a reduction in communicable diseases and an increase in injuries and non-communicable diseases.

Statistics South Africa published the 2011 statistical release on Mortality and Causes of Death report which presents statistics on the number and causes of death for 2011 by selected characteristics. In total, 505 803 deaths that occurred in 2011 were registered. The downward trend observed since 2007 in the number of deaths occurring in the country per year continues. The number of deaths between 2010 and 2011 decreased by 7,7% while during 2009/10 and 2008/09 the number of deaths decreased by 5,6% and 2,6%, respectively, which is an indication that the number of deaths are annually decreasing at an increasing rate.

The statistical release also provides information on trends in mortality and causes of deaths that occurred during the period 1997 to 2011.

The release is based on data collected by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) through the death registration system. It is estimated that this system covered 94% of adult deaths in the country during 2007–2011. For all these periods, the rate of decrease was much higher for females as opposed to males. Between 2010 and 2011 female deaths decreased by 8,2% while male deaths decreased by 7,5%.

Increasing levels of mortality that was observed before 2007 was prominent among females. The increase in the number of deaths was also associated with increases in deaths due to communicable diseases particularly tuberculosis, influenza and pneumonia and intestinal infectious diseases which have remained in the ten leading causes of death in the country since 1997.

The decrease in the number of deaths observed since 2007 has also been associated with decreases in tuberculosis, influenza and pneumonia and intestinal infectious diseases, more so among females. While these causes remain among the ten leading causes of death in the country, their relative importance in mortality is decreasing over time. However, among the ten leading causes of death due to communicable diseases, the proportion of deaths due to HIV disease continues to increase, although at a very slow pace (from 3,1% in 2009 to 3,4% in 2010).

In the recent years, there has been a modest increase in the proportion of deaths due to specific non-communicable diseases. Among the ten leading causes of death, the proportion of death due to the following causes increased: other forms of heart disease (particularly heart failure), cerebrovascular disease (largely stroke), diabetes mellitus, and hypertensive diseases. The contribution of these diseases to the overall number of deaths in 2009 was 15,2% and increased to 17,0% in 2011. The proportion of deaths due to injuries also increased slightly from 8,7% in 2009 to 9,1% in 2011.

On a general note, the proportion of deaths due to certain infectious and parasitic diseases and diseases of the respiratory diseases have declined while there has been an increase in the proportion of deaths due to diseases of the circulatory system; neoplasms (cancers); endocrine, nutritional and metabolic disease; and external causes of morbidity and mortality.

On the one hand, there is clear indication that communicable diseases are decreasing in the country and that the force of mortality is reducing particularly for females. On the other hand, the relative contribution of non-communicable diseases and injuries are on the increase. Do these changes leave the health system at crossroads in terms of what should be prioritised, without losing the battle on the existing burden of communicable diseases and addressing emerging health issues?


inister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba to address a Ministerial Youth Engagement at Wits University

The Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigaba will on Wednesday be in “Dialogue” with the youth of Gauteng, where he will brief the young people about opportunities available at State Owned Companies (SOC) and the department.

Young professionals, under-graduates and entrepreneurs stand to benefit greatly on the dialogue, as they will have a chance to engage with the minister under the theme: “Nurturing a new crop of industrialists.”

The dialogue is part of the Minister Gigaba “Series of Dialogues”, where he is set to visit provinces and regions to talk about the business opportunities to be availed during the implementation of the Infrastructure development plan by SOC such as Eskom and Transnet and Broadband Infraco.

The department recognizes that information is key to ensure that the majority of South Africans particularly youth owned enterprises have access to information about the business and job opportunities created by SOC.


arents commended for welcoming HPV campaign

Pretoria: The North West Provincial Executive Council (Exco) has thanked parents for embracing the roll out of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine campaign, which will protect many girls from cervical cancer.

Premier Thandi Modise on Tuesday said community mobilisation and consultation with schools has ensured that parents are informed to make healthy lifelong decisions for their children.

“The HPV vaccination campaign is an investment in the health of our young girls and that of future generation of women from contracting cancer of the cervix,” Premier Modise said.

She announced that the provincial government has budgeted R6 million for the roll out of the vaccination campaign. The campaign is run through the Integrated School Health programme implemented by sub-district school health teams.

For adequate lifetime protection against cervical cancer to be achieved, the World Health Organisation recommends that a minimum of two doses should be administered with a six-month interval between doses.

“Girls aged nine and above in grade 4 in all public schools across the province, who received the first dose, will receive the second dose to be administered from 29 September to 24 October 2014.

“From next year, the target will be extended to other groups but girls in grade 4 each year will be the main target group,” the Premier explained.

Cancer of the cervix, caused by HPVs transmitted through sexual contact, is among the common cancers affecting women in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the North West province, cervical cancer is among the first 10 causes of death for women above the age of 45 years. Nationally, 6 000 women get cervical cancer every year. About 80% are African women. Between 3 000 and 3 500 die annually, even after treatment.