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Zimbabwe Health Minister Blames Western Sanctions For Health Crisis

Zimbabwean Health Minister David Parirenyatwa has called on the World Health Assembly, which gathered recently in Geneva, Switzerland, to support Harare’s call for the lifting of Western sanctions that he said have crippled health care in the country.

But observers said the the sanctions have no impact on Zimbabwean health care as they target only high officials in the government of President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party. Sanctions ban travel and allow assets to be frozen.

Though critical of Zimbabwe's record on human rights and governance, the Western nations that have imposed such sanctions have continued to provide humanitarian aid including medical assistance as well as the distribution of food aid. In particular, the United States and European Union have provided millions in funding for programs aimed at curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS and treating those affected by it.

One in five Zimbabweans is believed to have been infected with HIV and experts on the pandemic estimate that some 500,000 need antiretroviral drug therapy to fend off full-blown AIDS - though only about 50,000 are receiving ARVs. The state hospital system has been plagued by doctor and nurse strikes since late 2006.

Director Jephias Mundondo of the Family AIDS Caring Trust in Mutare, capital of the eastern province of Manicaland, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that most of Zimbabwe’s health programs are donor funded, but that Harare should be able to maintain its own health care system.

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