Mainstreaming Health, HIV & Gender in Environmental Impact Assessments

Oct 7, 2016

Workers at a construction site for a health facility supported by the UNDP/Global Fund. Experts say there is need to establish links between the execution of large capital projects and HIV, health and gender vulnerability

The Government has called for increased awareness among policy makers and the private sector including infrastructure developers and contractors as well as affected communities on the need to strike a balance between business operations, health and gender issues for sustainable development in the country.

Addressing participants at the High-Level Advocacy and Institutional Assessment Workshop on Mainstreaming Health, HIV and Gender Issues into Environmental Impact Assessments Processes held in Bulawayo, from 29-30 September 2016, the Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Ray C Ndhlukula explained that in the implementation of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimASSET) all the necessary steps have to be taken to ensure full integration of HIV and Gender dimensions into the country’s development agenda.

This, he said, involves ensuring that large capital projects such as the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway, the development of Batoka Power Station and others being rolled out as part of the ZimASSET implementation have undergone environmental impact assessments (EIAs) that integrate HIV and gender safeguards “otherwise the country will have economic growth with negative social impact”.

“This will ironically force Government to utilise resources generated from positive economic development to provide for social challenges such as HIV, TB, STIs, marriage breakdowns and domestic violence among others, caused by lack of full integration and mainstreaming of HIV and gender issues in implementation of various programmes and projects for ZimASSET”, he said.

In her remarks, the UNDP Zimbabwe Country Director, Ms Verity Nyagah expressed UNDP’s commitment to support the Government of Zimbabwe to implement this initiative given its relevance to the country’s national priorities as articulated in the ZimASSET and other health, and gender-related priorities.

“Identification of both positive and negative impacts of such large projects will help to inform the mitigation measures and interventions particularly those associated with HIV and gender” said Ms. Nyagah.

Echoing a similar theme, Dr Tapuwa Magure, the Chief Executive Officer of National AIDS Council said the implementation of capital projects can be one source of new HIV infections for project staff and surrounding communities. “Putting people on HIV treatment is very costly especially in the era of competing developmental priorities”, he said.

In her presentation, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Director-General, Ms DM Chasi noted with great concern that little attention has been given to integrating HIV, health and gender issues into EIAs. She reiterated that there is a growing recognition of the need to carefully consider health, particularly HIV, and gender-related concerns into national development planning processes.

Although many large capital projects are implemented following an environmental assessment process, as provided for in in the law, Ms Chasi said little has been done to integrate HIV and gender-related issues. This impacts on economic development.

Therefore it was emphasized that failure to mainstream health and gender issues in the EIA processes and the resultant high prevalence of HIV, health concerns and gender issues in project operational areas negates attempts to improve the livelihoods and socio-economic welfare of communities. Hence participants shared a common understanding on the links between the execution of large capital projects and HIV, health and gender vulnerability.

As a way forward, the workshop established a Committee which would spearhead the development of a country roadmap for mainstreaming HIV, health and gender issues in the ESIA process in Zimbabwe.

The event, organized by UNDP in collaboration with National AIDS Council (NAC) and other stakeholders was attended by representatives of key government ministries namely: Finance, Health, Economic Planning, Environment, Energy and Transport. Also present were officials from parastatal organizations, in particular Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) as well as officials from several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).


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