HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 13, 2018/ — In Zimbabwe, a host of barriers are preventing adolescents, defined as aged 10 to 19 years, from accessing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services safely and confidentially without the consent of their parents.
Without free and informative access to health services that include contraceptives, treatment for sexually transmitted infections and condoms, national studies show that rates of adolescent pregnancy and HIV are increasing, while knowledge levels around sexual health are declining. One study revealed that Zimbabwe has the highest teenage fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa with one in every 10 girls aged between 15 and 19 years falling pregnant every year.
Culturally, young people are often expected to abstain from sex until they get married. National law states that young people below the age of 16 years can’t take an HIV test without parental consent, and health workers often stigmatize young people seeking sexual health advice.
Yet in many communities like Mbare, a sprawling high-density suburb in the capital Harare, the reality is that young people start having sex and experimenting as early as 12 years, frequently without protection or information on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, STIs and HIV infection.
Young people living with HIV also face particular difficulties, especially if they only learn of their HIV status by accident in their teens. Most find it difficult to accept their condition, and often stop taking their antiretroviral treatment (ART). Crowded living conditions which force young people out of their homes and abuse of alcohol and drugs also plays havoc with staying on regular treatment.
Recognizing the huge vulnerability of adolescents without access to free sexual and reproductive health services, MSF partnered with the Harare City health department to start an ‘adolescent-friendly corner’ at Edith Opperman clinic in Mbare. Staff in the brightly coloured rooms offer free services which include general health check-ups, HIV testing and counselling, screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and contraceptive services.
In between appointments, young visitors can play pool or chat with ‘peer educators’, themselves young people, who MSF has trained and mentored to discuss sexual health issues with their peers or encourage them to stick to their treatment.
In 2017, 2454 consultations were provided for young people in the ‘adolescent corner’.
HARARE, Zimbabwe, February 12, 2018/ — Prolonged dry spells, erratic rainfall, high temperatures and the presence of the voracious fall armyworm have significantly dampened Southern Africa’s current agricultural season’s cereal production prospects. Early action in the form of consolidating information through assessments and anticipatory measures that reduce the impact of threats are crucial for an effective response.
Fall Armyworm, which first emerged last season, has compounded the situation as it continues to spread within national territories and beyond. The pest is now present across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) except Mauritius and Lesotho. Partial fall armyworm monitoring has pointed to Malawi as the hotspot in the 2017/18 season, and the country has since declared a national disaster.
“FAO concludes that the damage may already have been done. Whether the dry spells continue, or a lot of rainfall is received within a short period, crop production is likely to be negatively affected and consequently, water supplies for humans and livestock,” said David Phiri, the FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.
Poor season signals food and nutrition insecurity, limits income-generating opportunities
A Special Alert issued by the Food and Nutrition Security Working Group Southern Africa (FNSWG) painted a worrying picture of the situation, as many farmers from the region planted late while in some areas of Botswana, southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe did not plant at all. According to the Alert, South Africa—the largest producer of white maize in the region–has reported a 22 percent decline in area planted this season.
The poor rains and the presence of the fall armyworm, the Special Alert says, have far reaching consequences on access to adequate food and nutrition during the 2018/19-consumption year. Additionally, this will limit income-generating opportunities resulting in far reaching consequences on food and income security gains made in recent years.
The outlook marks a sharp swing from a largely successful 2016/17 summer cropping season that saw a significant improvement in cereal output across the region. However, the 2016/17 season is sandwiched by poor seasons as 2015/16 was characterized by an El Niño induced drought that left the region with a huge cereal deficit.
Southern Africa continues to experience shocks
Intermittent rains preceded the two seasons, which affected crop production and affected pastures. In some cases, a diametrically opposite situation prevailed, as some areas, for example in parts of Mozambique and Malawi where floods washed crops and livestock away.
Southern Africa continues to experience weather shocks, which threaten human, and livestock and these have become more pronounced with changes in climate. Phiri said it was imperative that stakeholders including the UN, SADC, funding partners, non-governmental organizations and the private sector come together to attain a “convergence of thought on the evolving situation.”
“There is an urgent need to determine the scale and possible impact of the prolonged dry spell on the season and intervene immediately. It is equally important to draw lessons from previous experiences and implement proven resilience-building interventions such as prepositioning water infrastructure, supplementary feeds and disease surveillance for livestock,” added Phiri.
Additional interventions which proved successful in the past seasons include input support for winter crop production on existing irrigation facilities, capacitating farmers for good post-harvest practices to minimize and avoid further losses as well as input support to restore agricultural production in the 2018/19 main cropping season.
A group of human rights activists in Zimbabwe have criticized Zimbabwe authorities over mistreatment of a disabled white farmer whose farm was taken over by government.
This comes after the Constitutional Court in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, dismissed an application filed by a disabled white farmer, William Stander, a double amputee, seeking to stop his eviction and the expropriation of his farm by government.
In the application, Stander claimed that he was being deprived of his only home and source of livelihood.
“Our government is insensitive otherwise it would not throw out a disabled person from his farm,” said Richard Nzoni, human rights activist. “I am going to meet with other human rights activist and see how we can help Stander.”
Another activist, John Mchenda, said that the leaders in Zimbabwe, most of them Christians, should try to be kind to others as the Bible teaches. He said, “the Bible teaches us to love each other and to always to help those with problems. Surely what do the leaders think as the disabled white farmer is thrown out of his farm?”
The farmer was accused of contravening the Gazetted Lands Act after failing to vacate his farm.
He filed a Constitutional Court application seeking compensation or return of his farm located on Lot 18 of Nuanetsi Ranch, claiming that the seizure of his farm was an infringement of constitutional rights of people living with disabilities.
But prosecutor Fortunate Kachidza said that Stander’s application lacked merit and that he was supposed to vacate the farm, since it had been taken over by government.
The Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku concurred with the prosecutor and dismissed Stander’s application saying it lacks merit.
Many farmers in Zimbabwe have lost their farms after government decided to hand them to indigenous citizens accusing the whites of having unlawfully grabbed the fertile land from their forefathers. Some of the white farmers resolved to fight for their farms in courts of law but most of them have lost the cases due to the judiciary being biased.