Zimbabwe: Criminal health policies

Issue 

Compelling evidence of the Zimbabwe government's criminality in the area of health and human rights was released in Johannesburg on January 14 by Physicians for Human Rights in its report, Health in Ruins: A Man-Made Disaster
in Zimbabwe
.

A team of medical experts visited Zimbabwe in mid-December and witnessed criminal incompetence, corruption and human rights abuses in the area of health services.

They corroborate a number of horror stories that have come out of Zimbabwe in recent months of mass hunger, the collapse of rubbish collection, drinking water and sewerage services, as well as ongoing violence directed against the opposition, civil society and medical personnel.

Health in Ruins also confirms that officials of Mugabe's Zimbabwe National Liberation Union (ZANU-PF) plundered $US7.3 million from a humanitarian fund meant to supply life-saving drugs Anti Retro Viral (ARV) for HIV/AIDS patients late last year.

Mugabe's government is in denial. There is no functioning public hospital in Harare. Patients seeking treatment have to travel over 80 kilometres to attend a mission hospital in the rural areas.

The government has even tried to argue that the cholera outbreak, which has claimed 2000 lives since August, was an imperialist plot. Information about widespread malnutrition is suppressed.

An annual inflation rate of 89.7 sextillion has made the wages of medical and other public sector staff worthless. The bus fares cost more than salaries so few are able to get to work even if they wanted to.

However, for the elite who have access to foreign currency and fuel coupons (now a form of currency), all services, private medical attention, black market ARV drugs and luxury foods are available.

While Mugabe has been able to contain a vibrant opposition with his army and police, disease is another matter. Cholera is starting to spread across borders and the inadequate provision of ARVs creates the possibility of drug-resistant HIV strains that could threaten regional HIV/AIDS
programs.

The pressure on Mugabe's clique is mounting. The longer they stay in power, the more the evidence mounts.