Zimbabwe’s Health Crisis: How a Young Musician’s Death Exposed the System’s Failures

Garikai Mapanzure, known as Garry, died after waiting for hours for an ambulance and a scan at a government-run hospital.

by Motoni Olodun

Zimbabweans are mourning the death of a young Afropop musician who succumbed to injuries sustained in a car accident, amid growing concerns over the state of the country’s health system. Garikai Mapanzure, popularly known by his stage name Garry, was 25 years old when he died in mid-October, after spending hours waiting for an ambulance and a scan at a government-run hospital in Masvingo, his hometown.

Garry was one of the rising stars of Zimbabwe’s music scene, with songs like Wapunza, Nditaurire and TV Room that earned him fans across the country and beyond. He was also a student at the Great Zimbabwe University, pursuing a degree in music and musicology. He left behind his wife and a year-old son, as well as his family, friends and colleagues who described him as a talented, humble and hardworking artist.

Garry’s death has sparked outrage and sadness among Zimbabweans, who have blamed the poor state of the health facilities and the lack of equipment, drugs and personnel for his demise. According to a report by Inter Press Service, Zimbabwe’s health system is mired in chronic underfunding and plagued by numerous challenges that threaten the well-being of its citizens. The country allocates only $20 per person for health care, far below the World Health Organization’s recommendation of $86. The country also faces a critical shortage of doctors, nurses and other health workers, many of whom have left the country for better opportunities abroad. In 2022, more than 4,000 nurses left Zimbabwe, mostly for the United Kingdom and the United States.

Zimbabwe’s health crisis is not only affecting ordinary citizens but also high-profile figures such as politicians, celebrities and sports personalities. In recent years, several prominent Zimbabweans have died or sought treatment outside the country due to the lack of adequate health care at home. These include former president Robert Mugabe, who died in Singapore in 2019; former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in South Africa in 2018; and former soccer star Benjani Mwaruwari, who underwent a heart surgery in India in 2021.

The situation has also been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed the vulnerabilities of the health system and the population. Zimbabwe has recorded over 134,000 cases and over 5,600 deaths from the virus, according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care. The country has also faced challenges in securing and administering vaccines, with only about 15% of the eligible population fully vaccinated as of November 2023.

As Zimbabwe enters 2024, many are calling for urgent action to improve the health system and save lives. Some of the recommendations include increasing the budget allocation for health, ensuring timely and adequate disbursement of funds, strengthening the procurement and supply chain systems, addressing the human resources gaps, investing in equipment and infrastructure, enhancing the quality and accessibility of services, and promoting public health awareness and prevention. These measures, if implemented, could help Zimbabwe achieve its vision of universal health coverage and ensure that no one dies unnecessarily due to the lack of health care.

Source: Inter Press Service


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