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Press Release

July 3, 2007 
Children's health worsening in Zimbabwe

Calverton, MD. In the face of economic hardship, Zimbabweans are struggling to preserve their families’ health. According to the new 2005-06 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS), children’s health is worsening as vaccination rates drop and malnutrition and anemia increase. The final report was released today.

Children’s overall health is suffering, the survey shows. Most noticeably, basic immunization coverage for children ages 12-23 months has declined sharply to 53 percent, down from 75 percent in 1999. The percentage of children who have not received any immunizations is 21 percent, up significantly from 12 percent in 1999 and 4 percent in 1994. To be fully vaccinated, the World Health Organizations recommends a child receive one dose of BCG vaccine, three doses each of DPT and polio vaccines, and one dose of measles vaccine.

Zimbabwe’s children are more malnourished now than in the previous decade. In particular, the prevalence of stunting has increased to 29 percent, up from 21 percent in 1994. Stunting measures a child’s height for age and reflects the cumulative effect of chronic malnutrition. Anaemia is also more common now among children ages 6 to 59 months than it was in 1999. More than half of children (58 percent) have some level of mild to moderate anaemia.

New indications of declining maternal health may also be contributing to the poor health status of young children. For example, fewer women are receiving professional health care during pregnancy and delivery. Nearly a third (31 percent) of births took place at home compared to 23 percent in 1999. Proper medical attention and hygienic conditions during delivery reduce the risk of infections and other complications.

For the first time, the 2005-06 ZDHS gathered data on domestic violence. In Zimbabwe, domestic violence occurs across all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. More than a third (36 percent) of women age 15 to 49 have experienced some type of physical violence. Of these women, 57 percent said their current husband or partner committed the violence and 21 percent said it was their former husband or partner. About 13 percent reported violence from their own mothers, stepmothers or mothers-in-law. Overall, about 25 percent of women reported they had experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. Domestic violence often has a long-term negative impact on the health of women and their children.