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With UN, Zimbabwean Ministry of Health Targets Non-Communicable Diseases

Health Minister Henry Madzorera said he will soon as the Cabinet to boost taxes on alcohol and tobacco products to finance the fight against illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer

Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are receiving more attention in Zimbabwe and other developing countries as well as by United Nations health agencies. On Monday the UN Security Council held a special session on such diseases, which have risen in frequency along with developing nation incomes.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, speaking to the gathering, noted that three out of every five deaths in the world result from non-communicable diseases, a threat to development which can affect the poor other vulnerable groups particularly hard.

He said that according to the World Health Organization deaths from NCDs will increase 17 percent in the next decade but in Africa they will surge by 24 percent.

Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health says it will soon ask the Cabinet to increase alcohol and tobacco taxes to finance the fight against such illnesses.

Health Minister Henry Madzorera said non-communicable diseases now pose a greater threat to Zimbabweans than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

Madzorera, in New York for the UN session, said his ministry is concerned by the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases in Zimbabwe.

Itai Rusike, director of the Community Working Group on Health, commended the health ministry, telling VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo that the alcohol and tobacco industries are contributing significantly to the increase in non-communicable diseases.

Douglas Gwatidzo, chairman of the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights, said the rise in such diseases in Zimbabwe and Africa signals the need for a global approach.

Economist Eric Bloch says the tax hike proposal should target luxury items only so that it does not cripple sectors that are economically important to the country.

President Robert Mugabe attended the UN session. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai joined meetings the Clinton Global Initiative aimed at fostering partnerships to reduce poverty, clean up the environment, and boost access to health care and education.

In Harare, residents of high-density suburbs said health services are being neglected, noting the abandonment of the construction of clinic projects in MIlton Park, Kuwadzana extension and Budiriro after the World Bank withdrew assistance.

Officials said some US$6 million is needed to complete the facilities.