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Zimbabwean Health Care System Breaking Down

Alongside Zimbabwe’s political and economic crises, medical professionals report a health crisis amidst a crumbling health care system, shortages of drugs, emigration of specialists, equipment breakdowns, dwindling blood supplies and food scarcities.

In recent months the prices of anti-retroviral drugs - a matter of life and death to those living with HIV-AIDS – have tripled, sending them out of the reach of many of those who need them to survive. One in four Zimbabweans is HIV-positive.

The Community Working Group on Health, which promotes community participation in health planning, says most people in need of medical treatment are resorting to herbal remedies purchased in informal marketplaces. Working Group Director Itsi Rusike says those who do so run the risk of harmful effects from untested substances.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Dr. Ernest Mukwevo, an HIV-AIDS specialist, about the deterioration of health care.

Public hospitals, meanwhile, are sending patients home without medical care.

In the early 1990s, Zimbabwe was recognized as having one of the continent’s best health care systems. But the government has cut health and education spending to channel funds to the military and its security forces.

Now the country has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF.

Dr. Takunda Chinyoka of Parirenyatwa Hospital explains how physicians and other health care workers there are coping with the crisis.

Deputy Health Minister Edwin Muguti says the government is committed to providing the country’s people with good medical care, but that it has been handicapped by a lack of support from Western countries. Critics respond that government economic and social policies are to blame for the crisis in Zimbabwean medicine.

Studio 7’s Carole Gombakomba interviewed Dr. Muguti and asked him to present the Harare government’s view of the burgeoning health crisis.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...