Source: Field interviews, October-November 2002
Even though access to health care in the sector was limited, there had been some progress through the farm health worker (FHW) scheme. Prior to land reform, about 58 per cent of farm workers had access to the services of an FHW, and 88 per cent of farms in Mashonaland West and 30 per cent in Matabeleland North had such workers (FCTZ, 2000). The role of an FHW was multi-faceted: she was responsible for pre-school activities, dispensed drugs for minor ailments and educated communities on health and hygiene. With the take-over of most commercial farms, this rudimentary health system collapsed. FHWs were displaced; where this was not the case, resource constraints prevented them from carrying out their functions. In December 2002, a parliamentary portfolio committee on Lands and Agriculture and Rural Resettlement expressed apprehension about deteriorating conditions on the farms and newly-resettled lands (Standard, 15 December 2002). Clinics are few and far between. The nearest clinic can be up to 40km from the farm community. Another problem is shortage of drugs in the clinics (interview with a GAPWUZ official, October 2002). The growing problem of access to treated water is compounded by limited toilet facilities on the farms. Another parliamentary portfolio committee, on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, stated that it was appalled by conditions on resettled farms (Sunday Mirror, 16 February 2003). Health-care infrastructure and services were certainly disturbed by the invasions, and it will take time and considerable resources to rehabilitate them. (See appendices for tables showing trends in access to toilet facilities, child immunisation, child mortality, and diarrhoea prevalence.)
In one informal settlement near Macheke, about 50 per cent of children under five showed signs of malnutrition, while one in three households in the sample had lost a child under five through sickness. For workers who have been displaced from farms, the major problem is access to alternative health services in informal settlements and in adjacent towns or peri-urban centres.