What About Zimbabwe? Travel Health Advice for Tourists and Business Travellers
Whatever the reason for your trip to Zimbabwe, you’ll discover a friendly and welcoming nation and a beautiful country, albeit with a problematic political past. Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship regime threw Zimbabwe into economic turmoil, which in turn produced health and sanitisation implications across the country. Here are some of the ways in which Zimbabwe has been affected health-wise, along with some travel health advice for you and your trip.
Access to medication
Many medicines are in short supply in Zimbabwe, and as such it’s strongly advised that you take any and all medications you may need with you.
Access to medical attention is unreliable and medical supplies are severely restricted, making it difficult for hospitals to treat certain illnesses and ailments, including accidents and emergencies. The shortage of fuel has reduced emergency response capabilities and even the best hospitals are often too full to admit patients.
Aside from getting the most comprehensive travel insurance you can find, the best thing you can do is to be extra cautious about your health and safety while visiting Zimbabwe, so as to avoid needing access to medical services in the first place.
Diseases and recent outbreaks
In 2008, Zimbabwe was hit by their worst-ever outbreak of cholera, which killed 4,000 people. In 2010, the World Health Organisation recorded 1000 cases of cholera, including 21 deaths. The risk of cholera exists during the rainy season, which is from November to April. To minimise being exposed to this disease it’s recommended that you wash your hands thoroughly before each meal and ensure you are only using uncontaminated water.
In January 2012, an outbreak of typhoid occurred in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Like cholera, typhoid is spread via contaminated food or water and symptoms include fever, chills, abdominal pain and, in severe case, can even trigger intestinal bleeding and death. Take the necessary precautions to avoid contaminated food and water to reduce your risk.
Due to outbreaks of schistosomiasis and other parasitic infestations, it’s advisable not to bathe in fresh water such as lakes and rivers while in Zimbabwe, and also to avoid walking anywhere bare-foot.
Malaria is prevalent across most of Zimbabwe and anti-malaria tablets are advised. While this medication will reduce the severity and risk of malaria, you should also avoid being bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes in the first place by:
■ sleeping under a mosquito net at night
■ using a strong insect repellent containing DEET
■ wearing long-sleeved clothing and long trousers, particularly after sunset
Other health concerns
The HIV infection rate in Zimbabwe is reportedly the sixth highest in the world so avoid unprotected sex and don’t share use of anything that can break the skin, for example needles for tattoos, piercings and acupuncture.
Always check with your GP well before you travel, but in general the vaccinations you’re likely to need before travelling to Zimbabwe include hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid. Other vaccines your GP may recommend are cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis B and rabies.
Zimbabwe’s recent history is a story of repression and economic turmoil, the remnants of which can still be found in everyday life across the country. From limited access to health care and provisions to high unemployment levels, it’s fair to say that the country is still recovering.
Despite its troubled political past though, Zimbabwe is emerging once again as an attractive destination for tourists and business travellers from around the world. The country itself is beautiful, the people are welcoming and, if you take sensible travel health advice before departure, your trip to Zimbabwe should be memorable for all the right reasons.