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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles


  • An in-depth study on the impact of Operation Murambatsvina/restore order in Zimbabwe
    ActionAid International, in collaboration with the Counselling Services Unit (CSU), Combined Harare Residents’ Association (CHRA) and the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
    November 2005

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    Executive Summary
    This present study is an extension and elaboration of previous work on Operation Murambatsvina. It arose out of the need to have more in-depth information about a number of key areas in their lives and experiences of those affected by Operation Murambatsvina; namely, trauma, HIV/AIDS, legal issues, and losses.

    A structured questionnaire was used in the collection of data from 1,195 respondents distributed in 58 affected high density wards in 3 urban centres of Zimbabwe. The questionnaire was designed to elicit detailed information on 4 thematic areas: trauma, HIV/AIDS, legal issues, and losses in the affected communities.

    Data collected was entered stored and exported into Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) Version 13. Subsequently, analysis was done to generate frequencies, descriptive and derived variables.

    Trauma
    The effects of trauma were assessed by means of a psychiatric screening instrument (SRQ-8), and a trauma questionnaire.

    The results of the SRQ - 8 indicate an exceptionally high prevalence of psychological disorder. A total of 824 persons gave responses in the clinically significant range, 4 or more, which gave a prevalence rate of 69%. As regards an estimate of how many people will need assistance, it can be conservatively estimated that about 820,000 individuals are in need of psychological assistance, but the actual figure is likely to be higher.

    Statistical analysis indicated a number of significant relationships between psychological disorder, as measured by the SRQ-8, and trauma. Our data indicated the following:

    • A sgnificant relationship between current psychological disorder and thenumber of trauma events reported;
    • A significant relationship between current psychological disorder and trauma due to OVT [organized violence and torture];
    • A significant relationship between current psychological disorder and trauma due to displacement events [OM items];
    • A significant relationship between current psychological disorder and repeated exposure to trauma.

    There are also interesting relations between psychological disorder and the contribution of trauma reported by time period. The strongest relationship is with trauma reported in 2005, but the trend is towards increasing levels since the 1990s.

    As regards the types of trauma reported, there is the general trend towards Harare reporting more frequent trauma than Mutare and Bulawayo respectively. A general trend was observed, of trauma due to Operation Muramabatsvina, which remained the same across the three sites: lack of food or water was the most frequent trauma reported across all three sites.

    We also examined the relationship between the frequency of trauma types over time, since it is important to understand the cumulative burden of trauma. As can be seen from the table below, there was variation between the three sites over the past few decades, and the pattern overall reflects the known history of each of these periods.

    Both the frequencies and the mean trauma scores have increased over the years, with a large increase in both from 1998 onwards, which corresponds more or less exactly to the development of the current Zimbabwe crisis. It is noteworthy that the highest frequencies and mean trauma scores are recorded this year, strongly suggesting that Operation Murambatsvina has had serious consequences for the mental health of those people affected.

    Trauma over the years: Frequency of trauma items reported

    HIV/AIDS
    In the present study, we asked specifically about HIV/AIDS, and the data indicated that 23% of the sample was hosting at least one individual with HIV/AIDS. This was considerably higher than in the previous study – 23% as opposed to 13%. This represents a conservative number of households of about 5,407: this is an absolute minimum of 5,000 individuals whose lives are at risk. Of course, households may have more than one individual suffering from HIV/AIDS, and thus the actual number affected is much higher than this.

    The effects on those with HIV/AIDS have been extremely severe. In almost every area, this sample has experienced a loss of care and treatment. The group has even lost access to nutritional support.

    Our data also showed that, in every area of care and treatment, the HIV/AIDS households have seen significant and negative changes [see table over]. There is little change in access to clinics, but it must be remembered that most clinics can offer little in the way of medical treatment, except for opportunistic infections. However, very large percentages have lost access to care and treatment, with significantly high numbers receiving no care or treatment.

    Or data also showed that, in every area of care and treatment, the HIV/AIDS households have seen significant and negative changes. There is little change in access to clinics, but it must be remembered that most clinics can offer little in the way of medical treatment, except for opportunistic infections. However, very large percentages have lost access to care and treatment, with significantly high numbers receiving no care or treatment.

    Our data on the consequences for the sufferers of HIV/AIDS are a cause for the deepest concern. The picture is wholly negative, and ranges from loss of care, even from families, and loss of nutritional support, through to the loss of vital medication, and finally to higher rates of psychological disorder. These are not unexpected results, and could have easily been anticipated in the planning of Operation Murambatsvina; certainly these consequences could have, and should have been pointed out by the Ministry of Health if it had been consulted.

    Legal issues
    As regards housing, it is common for people in situations of scarce urban housing to find more informal modes of accommodation. This may lead to the development of shantytowns, but, in Zimbabwe’s case, and based on the Zimbabwe Government’s own data, this was not a serious problem in Zimbabwe. As UNHABITAT has estimated, in 2003, Zimbabwe had a slum population of about 157,000 [3.4% of the total population], a position that was very different to the general African picture.

    Our data strongly endorses the views of UNHABITAT: it does not suggest a large population of slum-dwellers, but rather a population of substantial citizens. A majority was paying rates, and a majority of these had some form of authorization for their occupancy.

    Effects on property
    The effects on people’s livelihoods were equally dramatic. The greater majority reported that the Operation had affected their livelihoods, with significant percentages reporting being registered and paying rates. As can also be seen, a large number reported being assaulted whilst in police custody, and the exceeding of the statutory maximum for detention seemed common also.

    Losses
    It is no small matter to estimate the losses of those affected by Operation Murambatsvina, and, as we noted earlier, there are very discrepant estimates to date.

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