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UPDATE: Zimbabwe is currently experiencing shortages of food, fuel and money plus outbreaks of cholera and typhoid. For more information, visit our Travel Alerts page.
Zimbabwe like most African nations has a host of dangerous diseases. Most are easy to avoid if you follow some basic rules, and the country isn't a lot more dangerous than most of its neighbours.
So any rules you hear below are pretty general for most of Southern and Eastern Africa. So if you are aware and take preventative measures, you'll hopefully be safe and healthy.
It is recommended that all travelers be up to date with their routine vaccinations however it is also well worth being vaccinated against the following:
Yellow Fever is not present in Zimbabwe however if you are entering the country from another country where the disease is present you will need proof of vaccination.
Zimbabwe's economy is almost non-existent and bad government policies have decimated what was once a powerful country. This bad economic management has killed the nation's health system.
Health services in Zimbabwe are extremely poor. Adequate treatment can be found in public and private hospitals in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. However they do experience shortages of staff, water, power, medicines and equipment. Outside these main cities, medical treatment in rural areas is low quality and non existent in some places.
The few private hospitals in Harare are likely to also require payments of up to US$2000 in cash notes before a patient is admitted.
They are unlikely to offer treatment of certain illnesses or offer assistance in an accident or emergency, however for anything serious you will likely need to be medi-vac'd out to Johannesburg.
Medical supplies throughout Zimbabwe are very limited and some prescription medicines are not available (recently insulin) or are very expensive. In the event of a serious accident or illness, a medical evacuation to South Africa would be necessary, costing up to $25,000.
Malaria is a risk in all areas except Harare and Bulawayo.
Other mosquito-borne diseases (including filariasis) are also prevalent in Zimbabwe.
Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, tuberculosis, measles, typhoid and rabies) are prevalent, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.
Malaria is a major killer across Africa, and for the price of a $2 mosquito net, it's wise to protect yourself.
It is not recommended to drink the local water, including what comes out of a tap. Instead, boil your water or use water purification tablets before drinking.
Most typhoid cases in Zimbabwe are due to poor hygiene and water contamination. The best way to prevent getting Typhoid Fever is to wash your hands often, avoid drinking tap water and never eat anything that can't be peeled or hasn't been cooked.
Outbreaks of cholera, or other enteric diseases such as typhoid, can occur.
A severe cholera outbreak affected most of Zimbabwe between August 2008 and July 2009. Cholera deaths have decreased recently, although the disease is still present and may break out again with little warning.
We advise you to drink water only from known safe sources (eg bottled, chlorinated or boiled water) and to maintain strict hygiene standards while travelling in Zimbabwe.
Cholera can be prevented by being immunised before your trip.
Any travel doctor can help you out, so get sorted with a Cholera vaccination before you leave.
The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Zimbabwe is very high. In 2016, UNAIDS stated that approximately 1,300,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in the country, however new infections and deaths have continued to decrease since 2010. You should exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
Few Zimbabweans with HIV receive the treatment they need to survive, and few hospitals are equipped to provide adequate care. This means that up to 3,500 people die from AIDS-related illness each week.
First rule, don't rush into any unknown waterways. You wouldn't do it at home, so the same drill applies in Africa.
Swimming in lakes and rivers is unsafe because of the possibility of being attacked by wildlife such as Nile crocodiles and hippos. Hippos are highly territorial and aggressive making them the most dangerous land animal in Africa, killing approximately 3000 people annually. And despite their big podgy bodies, they are quite agile animals on land and in the water.
Nile crocodiles are fast moving opportunistic predators and don't discriminate between you or an impala. It is estimated that hundreds of people are killed each year by them however most deaths go unreported. And as they are often found in proximity to human populations such as towns and villages, it pays to be alert so you avoid putting yourself on its menu!
Snakes and scorpions are also some others to keep an eye out for especially if you are out walking or hiking. Most people are bitten on the lower leg especially if they have been walking through long grass.
To avoid being bitten it's important to wear proper hiking boots, long pants and thick socks. Gaiters may also be a good idea too. Plus remember to shake your boots out before putting them on in case a scorpion has decided that your boot makes a wonderfully cosy home. Carrying a first aid kid with compression bandages doesn't go astray just in case you or someone else is bitten.
If you do get bitten, remember: Stay calm and seek medical help quickly. Try to keep a description of the snake or scorpion concerned which will help doctors treat you with the correct anti-venom.
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