HEALTH has long been one of the most important social concerns of Zimbabwean people. Major gains were achieved in the 1980s through joint and complimentary action between the health sector and communities. However, the combined impact of AIDS, structural adjustment, and real reductions in the health budget and in household incomes, has reversed many of these gains. The quality of health care has declined, and health workers and their clients have become demoralized. Communities have had to take on more and more responsibility for looking after the ill, by providing home-based care, paying for their health care and dealing with their health problems. But despite this critical involvement, they have been little more than passive observers of changes to the health system itself. By the late 1990s a wave of strikes amongst health workers signalled that health workers were also not happy with the situation. While a lot of attention was given to the strikes by doctors and nurses, those working at clinic level and in communities also lost wellbeing and morale. As 2000 approached, “health for all” seemed like an empty promise. As a result of this situation several national civic organizations, came together in 1997 to review the current state of affairs in the health sector and look at ways in which communities could achieve greater control of
their own health.
The first step was to carry out research on communities’ and civic organizations’ perceptions of health and health services in Zimbabwe. This was done in 1997. The survey brought up concerns about the inadequacy of public funds for health, the declining quality of public health services, the negative attitudes of providers and the weaknesses of current mechanisms for expressing community participation in health. After the finalization of the Survey Report in January 1998, a meeting of constituent organizations was held to review the outcomes; examine the health, and health care, priorities they implied; and suggest strategies for implementing these priorities. The participating civic groups decided to form a network of organizations called the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), with a responsibility to add weight to their input in health policy negotiations and maximize the effect of their joint actions in the health sector. In March 1998 they came together and discussed the feedback they had received. The CWGH members invited the associations of health professionals and representatives of government, churches, the private sector, NGOs and traditional health providers in order to identify conflict or consensus over community views and strategies. The result was a final report and Community Views on Strategies for health in Zimbabwe, which summarized the perspectives and experiences of CWGH and communities organizing for health in Zimbabwe.
After the establishment of the CWGH, it started working on a number of
programs including establishing local CWGH fora at district level. These fora
comprise representatives of all civic groups in the local authority area and in
the immediate surrounding peri-urban, rural and urban areas. They have an
elected committee comprising a chair, vice chair, secretary and three committee members from among the local civil society groups. These local CWGH fora co-ordinate local activities including education and health action, and link civil society groups with all health providers (public, private, traditional, NGO) and local authorities on health issues. They inform their members of national and local CWGH activities, policies and issues; promote health actions within their organizations and area; and take up health issues raised by communities with health providers.
The CWGH also advocates for the establishment of Health Centre Committees and district health boards that involve local councillors, civic groups and health providers to enable participation and effective links between members of the public and health providers. It advocates for hospital advisory boards to include civil society organizations, particularly those that represent hospital users. This enables civil society participation in the planning and implementation of health activities in a more substantive manner, including in respect of CWGH activities.
CWGH is a registered PVO - No.01/2014