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CRS in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has among the highest poverty rates in Africa according to a study in 2011/12. Seventy-six percent of rural households live with less than $2.52 per person/day and nearly 23% are extremely poor with less than $1.07.(Source: USAID)

Compounded by the high poverty levels, recurrent droughts, unfavorable economic environment and periodic violent political conflicts, the country is grappling with the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS. The HIV prevalence rate has declined from 20.1 percent in 2005 to 14.3 percent in 2013; this however is one of the highest in the world. The net effects of HIV and AIDS and poverty continue to place a heavy burden on orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and the families taking care of them.

Zimbabwe has an estimated 1.5 million OVC. Of these, only one percent are in institutions, another one percent are on the streets, while the rest are living with relatives and families in communities. But given the prevailing economic situation in Zimbabwe, many families caring for OVC are already impoverished and overextended. Children within these households often face great risk of malnutrition, disease, and limited access to education and health care. The capacity of households to care for OVC in Zimbabwe has declined sharply over the past decade, mostly as a result of the economic collapse and resultant poverty.

CRS Zimbabwe has demonstrated its commitment to work with and for the most underserved populations in Zimbabwe, consistently delivering on promised results through relevant projects. This is enabled by facilitating and promoting the strengthening of partners' abilities to identify, build on, and address their vulnerabilities, strengths, and specific capacity building needs through a process that leads to sustainability. CRS has developed strong working relationships with local government and a sound understanding of the local settings which enable CRS to scale-up operations in a short period of time. CRS Zimbabwe retains highly qualified staff with programmatic expertise, enabling CRS to deliver consistent and quality programming.

Catholic Relief Services Zimbabwe has built strategic partnerships with more than 7 local organizations, most of whom are development arms of the local Catholic Church, bringing quality humanitarian, recovery and development programming to the country's urban and rural communities. We regularly collaborate with the government of Zimbabwe to ensure our projects' strategic direction fills the gaps in services faced by vulnerable populations, builds capacity of partner staff or community volunteers, and monitors and implements project activities.


People Served: 318,103 (FY 2014: 87,510 direct; 230,593 indirect)

Population: 13,771,721 (July 2014 est.)

Size: 150,872 sq mi; slightly larger than Montana

CRS' History in Zimbabwe

At the invitation of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, CRS has worked in Zimbabwe since 1989 with the Catholic Church, community-based organizations and government institutions.

Over our history in the country, we have worked to reduce food insecurity and build peace. We have provided orphans and vulnerable children education opportunities, income-generating activities and psychosocial support. 

CRS is working to help communities develop and adopt disaster-risk reduction and mitigation strategies to increase the resilience of populations and local rural society. 

CRS Zimbabwe’s health and nutrition initiatives aim to immediately serve the most vulnerable members of society and to better secure health for a community and its future. Our strategies include strengthening community systems, rapid response to health emergencies in local communities, and information, education and communication initiatives to help fight diseases within communities. CRS, through support from World Food Program, has provided nutritional support to an average 3,099 malnourished HIV and TB patients, pregnant and lactating mothers, and children under 5. CRS and partners have trained rural volunteer caregivers, providing skills that strengthen communities’ abilities in preventing the spread and mitigating the impact of HIV infection.

Clean water and sanitation are widely recognized as essential components of social and economic development. CRS acknowledges that sanitation is essential to community health and limiting the spread of infectious diseases. In Zimbabwe, breakdown of water and sewer systems have been major contributing factors for waterborne diseases. CRS WASH activities focus on restoring services in areas most affected by limited access to water and sanitation facilities. In support of the Government of Zimbabwe’s  new strategy, Improving Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Rural Areas of Zimbabwe: Strategic Concept and Programme Design June 2012-2016, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Zimbabwe worked through the Bulawayo City Council and three districts’ water and sanitation services committees to build the capacity of community and institutions of WASH management. Emphasis is on empowering communities, particularly women, by seeking active participation in management and decision-making.  A total of 81,564 beneficiaries benefitted from the Joint Initiative and Rural WASH projects.