Sharing and learning about public health accountability for informal settlements in Harare, Zimbabwe

Earlier this month, we heard from ARISE colleagues in Zimbabwe working on the ‘Public Health Accountability for Informal Settlements’ project, funded by the ARISE Responsive Fund.  Here Teurai Anna Nyamangara, Jiban Karki and Hayley Stewart recap on the work being done in Harare.

Project activity

Teurai Anna Nyamangara from the Dialogue on Shelter Trust took us through the activities the team has been up to in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare; working in two informal settlements. The team mobilised twenty women and youth-led groups in Tafara and Stoneridge, to undertake research on public health issues in the two informal settlements. They undertook a community-led profiling exercise, generating community-led research specifically on public health using focus group discussions as well as community exchanges between Tafara and Stoneridge. Throughout the year, a total of ten exchange and exposure visits were organised, spanning both intra-settlement and inter-settlement contexts, while total of three community public health and accountability dialogues were conducted in Tafar, Stoneridge, and the Harare Federation Region. A solar-powered borehole, equipped with multiple water points, was successfully installed in Tafara, and four stakeholder meetings on SRHR and disaster response were successfully conducted in Tafara and Stoneridge.

Strengthened and more equitable relationships between urban marginalised people and government

There is improved collaboration between communities and government actors, a positive outcome attributed to the ARISE project. This shift is advantageous because government officials are more responsive when communities themselves express their concerns, rather than relying on NGOs to advocate on their behalf. This was achieved through a series of meetings and visits, including a stakeholder disaster response meeting, informal settlements exchange visits, and SRHR stakeholders meeting.

Strengthened and more inclusive relationships within and between networks of community organisations

There was capacity strengthening through learning visits within and across the targeted slum settlements, as well as visits with decision makers. These exchanges helped in peer-to-peer learning, exploring experiences around access to basic services. When community members from different slums visited each other and learned together, alongside local officials and policymakers, there was a real visible transformation in their relationships.

In an exchange visit, the development technical team from Tafara visited the technical team from Dzivaresekwa, a settlement that had recently been upgraded. The exchange helped the Tafara team learn skills to spearhead their own development projects. and they have since started visiting the local authority on their own.

Enhanced understanding of wellbeing and health drivers for urban marginalised people

As described above, two community profiling exercises were conducted, with ten focus groups carried out in Tafara and Stoneridge informal settlements, specifically addressing public health issues. To ensure accuracy and reliability, feedback and verification meetings were conducted as part of the data validation process.

Data was compiled which the community then presented to decision-makers, highlighting gaps in service delivery. The findings served as a valuable learning resource to inform inclusive actions and policies. These findings were presented to stakeholders. The profile reports included data indicating challenges related to poor access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) facilities.


The pre–election, election, and post- election periods in 2023 were politically febrile, making working in the informal settlements more challenging and sensitive than usual. The research team had to rely on community leaders to run activities and hold meetings and gatherings on our behalf.

Lessons learnt

  • Communities are first responders to the challenges they face – disaster and health related – so there is a need to invest resources directly into communities, so that they can scale up their interventions. It is crucial to prioritise locally led adaptation principles, and invest in community resilience.
  • Savings groups form the basis of collective action in urban poor communities, especially informal settlements. The savings groups in informal settlements save for different purposes such as buying land and building houses.
  • Community-led data collection enhances capacity by filling knowledge gaps and helping shape policies and policy responses. There is a need to co-produce data through participatory data collection, which can then be used by both state and non- state organisations to address highlighted gaps in health issues.

Pic credit: Dialogue on Shelter Trust