Yoga to reduce incidences of Non-Communicable Diseases in Zimbabwe

By Joyce Mukucha and Byron Mutingwende

The Embassy of India in Zimbabwe and the United Nations in partnership with Art of Living Foundation have joined hands in promoting the adoption of Yoga as a lifestyle and wellbeing strategic investment in the prevention of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Zimbabwe.

The International Day of Yoga (IDY) will be celebrated on the 21st of June 2018, under the theme “Yoga for Health, Harmony and Peace” through various activities and practical sessions expected across Zimbabwe with the aim of supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 3 on ‘Good Health and Well-being.’

Yoga is believed to be a holistic contribution on achieving an equilibrium between mind and body. This approach to health, wellbeing and peace can make an undeviating and beneficial contribution to humankind’s quest to achieve sustainable development as well as moving towards lifestyles that are in harmony with nature.

Briefing the media about the IDY, the Art of Living Teacher, Professor Ebrahim Jassat said 30 percent of lung capacity was being used during breathing therefore there was need for every individual to exercise.

“It is significant to note that the hormonal part of the body is essential to good health. To promote SDG on health and wellbeing in Zimbabwe, it is imperative if the three practical aspects of Yoga are known by the majority. These are postures, breathing and meditation. Breathing is vital to life but unfortunately, people use 30 percent of lung capacity when breathing.

“Postures taken when exercising give the body fresh blood and lessen the chances of having diabetes. When the mind is strained one should exercise in order to feel fresh and alive. YOGA also slows down ageing,” he said.

Bishow Parajuli, the UN Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe emphasised that Yoga was a bold step which was taken in the UN to promote good health.

He said there was need to join hands as part of supporting the SDGs and reduce the rate of diseases in Zimbabwe.

“The overall objective of observing IDY in Zimbabwe is to promote health, well-being and peace and harmony through Yoga. It’s a holistic approach of us joining hands to uphold SDGs as the practice reduces the prevalence of NCDs. There is need to learn more about the practice of Yoga and its teaching.

“Yoga can play a vital role in improving health as it improves mental ability to control hypertension and blood pressure. From a human point of view, YOGA is an all-inclusive tactic to well-being and it is one of oldest indigenous practices. I’m very glad that we joined hands with the UN in Zimbabwe through Yoga for better health because it’s part of the SDGs 3 and 16,” he said.

Parajuli said the partnership was going to benefit Zimbabwe and urged civil society to maximise the publicity around the contribution of Yoga to good health.

The UN Resident Coordinator said the adoption of International Day of Yoga recognises that global health is a long-term development objective that requires closer international cooperation through the exchange of best practices aimed at building better individual lifestyles devoid of excesses of all kinds.

“The UN recognises that yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being. The United Nations in Zimbabwe in response to the increasing burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) has recognised that wider dissemination of information about the benefits of practising yoga would be beneficial for the health of Zimbabweans and the world population at large,” Parajuli said.

In that regard, marking International Day of Yoga in Zimbabwe was therefore in line with the UN General Assembly proclamation which calls on all UN Member and observer States, the organisations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organisations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organisations and individuals, to observe the Day, in accordance with national priorities, to raise awareness of the benefits of practising yoga.

Therefore, commemorating the International Day of Yoga goes in tandem with the commitment of Zimbabwe to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals, particularly with SDG3 that aims to achieve quality health for all.


Explaining more concerning YOGA, Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Rungsung Masakui said there was need to work with different societies of Zimbabwe in mobilising YOGA.

“In India, YOGA is practised to prevents the prevalence of diseases as well as eliminate toxins in the body. He called for prioritisation of prevention since it is cost effective than to deal with diseases once they occur.

“YOGA has become an ancient medical system and practice in India as part of promoting good health. Knowledge about YOGA is acquired from schools and hospitals which are specifically designed for such in India. For Zimbabwe, through the support from UN, we are planning to make this practice an ongoing process as we hope it will positively generates benefits,” said Masakui.

Events of Yoga in Zimbabwe which are aligned to take place in Zimbabwe will be held in the month of June in various cities which include Mutare, Rusape, Kwekwe, Gweru, Victoria Falls, Harare and Bulawayo.

Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. It is derived from a Sanskrit word which means to join or to unite, symbolising the union of body ad consciousness. Today, it is practised in various forms around the world as it continues to grow in popularity.

The Universal appeal of Yoga was recognised on 11 December 2014 and declared to be commemorated on the 21st of June by the UN by the resolution 69/131 which aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practising it.

The right to healthcare is enshrined in Section 76, sub-section 1 to 4 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and is the overarching national framework that provides direction to the health sector.

To date there has been a noticeable reduction in the prevalence of communicable diseases- HIV, TB, Malaria as well as water borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid – though there is still a long way to end these communicable diseases as well.

In line with Zimbabwe’s commitment to universal health coverage and quality health for all under the SDG 3, the UN with the generous support from Development Partners such as the Global Fund, EU, GAVI alliance, and the governments of Sweden, UK, Ireland and the United States is providing support in the areas of HIV response, Maternal and Reproductive Health, Neonatal and Child Health, and in general strengthening the health system.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have been overshadowed by the prevalence of infectious diseases. It was heartening to witness last week the Government and the UN (UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO) coming together to address the looming challenge of cervical cancer. It was an honour to join the First Lady to launch Human Papilloma Virus Vaccination which will protect some 800,000 young girls from 10-14 years of age from cervical cancer.

The incidence of cervical cancer in Zimbabwe is reported to be 34.5 per 100,000 women compared to the global average of 15.1. annually there are 2,270 cases reported with 1451 associated deaths in Zimbabwe and 99% of cervical cancers are associated with HPV infection. Similarly, diabetes, cardiovascular arrest, and other NDCs are on the increase.

On a general note, in Zimbabwe, NCDs account for 31% of morbidity according to findings of the World Health Organization. The high burden of NCDs is attributed to a change in population lifestyles, which include physical inactivity because of the changing nature of work, alcohol, smoking and substance abuse particularly among the youth, traffic accidents, and pollution. In addition, underfunding of the health sector due to low revenue realized from the fiscus that funds the national budget is also another factor. The UN is working with the Government on how to reach the 15% allocation of the National Budget to Health in line with the Abuja Declaration.

Health is wealth and prevention is of primary importance as it is undoubtedly more logical, and cost effective to prevent disease than to deal with it once it has occurred.

In addition to the myriad of ongoing interventions to improve the health system including tackling NCDs in Zimbabwe, promoting the adoption of Yoga as a lifestyle for health and wellbeing is a strategic investment particularly in the prevention of NCDs.