Feature Medicine and conflict

Zimbabwe’s unsung heroes

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1303 (Published 13 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1303

A human rights lawyer reports how medical professionals responded during recent political violence in Zimbabwe

From 29 March 2008, when Zimbabweans voted in the presidential and parliamentary elections, to 27 June when the presidential run-off election was held, Zimbabwe was hit by successive waves of gruesome political violence. The greatest intensity was in the rural provinces of east and central Mashonaland, but as 27 June approached violence engulfed urban areas and the numbers of victims of political violence increased. The world’s attention was on the political nature of the violence, and little focus was given to medical professionals, who risked their lives to assist the victims of political violence.

Zimbabwe became a highly polarised society after the formation of the opposition political party Movement of Democratic Change in 1999—the ruling Zanu PF party insisted that it alone had a right to rule Zimbabwe. The latest political violence occurred when Zimbabwe was already in dire economic difficulties that had adversely affected the health sector. Most doctors …

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