Harare, Zimbabwe – Swedish State Secretary for International Development Cooperation Ms. Ulrika Modéer has pledged commitment to support the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) agenda in Zimbabwe to reach women and young women with essential and life-saving services.
Ms Modeer was in Zimbabwe to review and discuss Sweden's current and future engagement in the country as the Swedish Government prepares for a new 5-year Development Cooperation Strategy for Zimbabwe.
She was accompanied by the Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ms Sofia Calltorp, and Permanent Secretary of Health in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Gerald Gwinji, UNFPA - Zimbabwe Representative, Mr Cheikh Tidiane Cisse and UNICEF Deputy Representative, Dr. Jane Muita. Also accompanying her was Ms. Maria Selin (Head of Development Cooperation, Embassy of Sweden), Ms. Ami Larsson (Head of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa Desk, Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Ms. Carolina Benedictsson (Zimbabwe Desk-officer, Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Ms. Angelica Broman (Health Expert and 1st Secretary, Embassy of Sweden).
Ms Modeer visited a health facility, Edith Opperman Clinic – located in one of the oldest and poorest suburbs of Harare - which offers Maternal Neonatal Child Health services. At this clinic UNFPA also supports Cervical Cancer screening and treatment (Cryotherapy). About 2000 women have been screened in the facility since it started in 2014. She also visited the Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Clinic housed at the Edith Opperman Clinic. This MSF run clinic offers practical training to health personnel training on clinical management of SGBV with support from UNFPA.
The Swedish delegation also visited Mbare Sex Work Clinic which is part of the National Sex Work Programme coordinated by the National AIDS Council and the Ministry of Health and Child Care and implemented by Centre for Sexual Health and HIV AIDS Research Zimbabwe (CeSHHAR). The programme is done with financial and technical support from UNFPA, Sweden, Britain and Ireland. It seeks to reduce HIV infection among Sex workers; reduce HIV transmission to their clients; and improve the rights of sex workers. The programme is operated through 36 centers in areas with a high concentration of sex workers (6 static and 30 outreach sites). Sex workers are provided with clinical services such as HIV testing and counselling, STI screening and treatment, referrals to ART and PReP, family planning and treatment of minor ailments and non-clinical services such as general counselling, legal advice and support.
The last stop for the mission was at NatPharm, a parastatal under the Ministry of Health and Child Care which is responsible for the storage and distribution of medicines and supplies to health institutions across the country. UNFPA procures VIAC commodities, key contraceptives and maternal drugs and which are stored and distributed through the nationals system coordinated by NatPharm.
Ms Modeer also met with few selected United Nations Country Team members and the Resident Coordinator Mr Bishow Parajuli.
Speaking at the end of her mission Ms Modeer confirmed the priorities of SIDA support in Zimbabwe are health, gender and environment. She reaffirmed strong support to the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights agenda.
“We are continuing our long standing relations with Zimbabwe with a new development cooperation strategy for the coming 5 years,” Swedish State Secretary, Ms. Modeer
“We are following with great interest political and economic reforms in the country," said Ms. Modeer. "We work with good governance, rule of law, human rights with a variety of Zimbabwean actors but also within the area of health where we focus on SRHR for women and young people. We will also introduce a new area of work, environment and climate change because this affects Zimbabwe a lot.”
UNFPA Country Representative Cheikh Tidiane Cisse said it is through support from the development partners such as the Government of Sweden that has ensured women and young people in Zimbabwe are reached with essential and life saving SRH services.
“We are very grateful to Sweden for the support to our work as UNFPA which has and is continuing to make a huge difference in the lives of many women and young people,” said Cisse. “We look forward to greater cooperation in the future.”
By Bertha Shoko