Andrew Mambondiyani is a Zimbabwean journalist who mainly writes articles about the link between climate change and health. Glo.be met him while he was working as a journalist-in-residence at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp.
How does climate change impact health?
We didn’t normally have malaria mosquitoes in certain areas of Zimbabwe, but now we have started to notice them. Even in our cooler season (May-September), when there used to be no mosquitoes at all, this has changed. It shows how climate change alters the spread of mosquitoes and causes an increase in malaria cases.
But there can also be an indirect impact. A study in Malawi has shown, for example, that there is an increase in AIDS cases during periods of drought, because prolonged droughts lead to food shortages that force some women to offer sex in exchange for food, which results in more AIDS cases.
Climate change may also force people to spend more money on food. Health care will then come second.
Is the government taking action?
The government is doing a lot. It relies on donor funds to distribute mosquito nets and insecticides to use indoors. But this is a very fragile situation: if funding stops, they have nothing left. Public authorities should have much more resources of their own at their disposal.
Another problem is that the wrong priorities are set. Zimbabwe puts the emphasis on defence, so there is hardly anything left for health care, whereas better health care would have an immediate positive impact on other sectors.
How is the health care system in Zimbabwe?
Nothing works. There are n medicines, not even painkillers. Moreover, we face a shortage of health personnel and the government cannot afford to pay the nurses and doctors that we do have.
The government relies on donor funds to distribute mosquito nets and insecticides to use indoors. But this is a very fragile situation: if funding stops, they have nothing left. Public authorities should have much more resources of their own at their disposal.
How can countries develop their own resources?
My country, for example, has large reserves of mineral ores such as diamonds and gold, but all the profits go to international companies. Zimbabwe has lost USD 15 billion in diamond mining, according to ex-President Mugabe.
But it is not easy to improve this situation. Senior officials know where the money is, but they are involved themselves and are therefore not particularly motivated to tackle the problem.
What is the impact of pollution on health?
The poorly functioning Zimbabwean economy means that waste is not collected and turns into an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. It also pollutes the water. In the cities too, people use polluted water from rivers or deep wells for cooking and even for drinking. It is quite obvious that this affects health.
What is it like to work as a journalist in Zimbabwe?
There is no freedom of the press. Every journalist must register. If someone is too critical, he is arrested for a while. This happened to two journalists who wrote an article about the pollution caused by diamond companies that had close ties to the government.
I have also been arrested. It only took a few hours, but my case has not been closed. I can be arrested again at any time.
Andrew Mambondiyani is a freelance journalist who works for various magazines in Zimbabwe, but especially in Europe and the US. Thanks to the Journalists-in-Residence Programme, he spent two weeks in Antwerp to attend the International Congress for Tropical Medicine, organized by the Institute of Tropical Medicine. He had the opportunity to consult experts regarding the link between climate change and health.
Journalist-in-Residence is an initiative of the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITG). Four journalists from Africa, Asia and Latin America are given the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of a subject related to tropical medicine or global health. The ITG is an essential partner of the Belgian Development Cooperation.