In the 1980s and 1990s, Zimbabwe had one of the best primary health care systems in sub-Saharan Africa. But two decades of political and economic turmoil have led to low investment in the health sector, and many of Zimbabwe’s 16 million people now struggle to access basic health services.

Patient-doctor ratios are high, hospitals are ill-equipped and essential medicine is lacking.

Humanitarian crises, including two cholera outbreaks in 2018 and widespread drought in 2016 and 2017, have worsened the situation.

Health challenges

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

  • contaminated water sources, including wells and boreholes. The cholera outbreaks in 2018 highlighted this problem.
  • tuberculosis, which remains a leading cause of death despite major progress. From 2010 to 2017, new cases of tuberculosis fell by 10 per cent each year. There were 221 new cases per 100,000 people in 2017.
  • HIV and AIDS. According to 2018 data from UNAIDS, there were 1.2 million cases of HIV and AIDS in adults over 15, and 84,000 cases in children under 15. The prevalence rate among adults aged 15 – 49 was 12.7 per cent. Women are disproportionately affected and many children are orphaned because of HIV and AIDS.
  • life expectancy remains low, but there has been improvement since 2010. In 2016, life expectancy was 60 for males and 63 for females.
  • high rates of death during pregnancy and childbirth.
  • malnutrition, which leaves a quarter of Zimbabwe’s children stunted (UNICEF). Iron deficiency and vitamin A deficiency are also common.

COVID-19 reached Zimbabwe in March 2020. On June 7, the Ministry of Health reported 282 confirmed cases, 34 recoveries, and 4 deaths.

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; Co-Head, Strategy Insights and Impact; Head, Development Effectiveness





Current Projects

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

  • Optima HIV Modelling

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

  • The Mbereko + Men Model: Rural Zimbabwe