Zimbabwe Health Care in Shambles Due to Atrocities

International medical community should help rebuild the health infrastructure
By A. Agrawal, PhD
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The recent violence and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe have resulted in the breakdown of the country's health system, according to an editorial published online Aug. 12 in BMJ, which says the international medical community should condemn the atrocities, support human rights and help rebuild the country's health infrastructure.

Dan J. Ncayiyana, M.D., from Durban University of Technology in South Africa, and colleagues note that during the recent political violence in Zimbabwe, 2,900 victims were treated and some subsequently died in the nation's hospitals. The country's health care system, which was once among sub-Saharan Africa's finest, is now in shambles, with dire shortages of medical supplies and equipment, and little left of the public health infrastructure.

The Zimbabwean Association of Doctors for Human Rights has investigated and documented gross human rights abuses in the country, the authors write. President Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have recently been negotiating a political settlement; however, even if agreed upon, this will not immediately stop the violence and human rights abuses. The authors call on professional medical associations to clearly condemn human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, support individuals and organizations supporting ethical practices and human rights, and defend threatened Zimbabwean colleagues.

"Even if the current negotiations result in a satisfactory political dispensation, Zimbabwe will still be confronted with the arduous task of rebuilding its moribund health system," Ncayiyana and colleagues conclude. "The international medical fraternity can support this endeavor through advocacy and, where possible, by individuals volunteering their time and technical expertise to help alleviate the skills gap in the reconstruction of health systems and institutions."

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