Zimbabwe’s Public Health System ‘Dissolving,’ Running Out of Medications, Supplies, Including HIV Test Kits
The New York Times on Thursday profiled Zimbabwe's health care system, which "like the rest of [the country's] economic and social fabric ... is dissolving." With the economy in "free fall," Zimbabwe is "desperately short of even basic drugs and medical equipment," which is forcing a "once robust" health care system "close to ruin" and is taking a "human toll," according to the Times. For example, in a country where 25% of the population is HIV-positive, nurses at Parirenyatwa Hospital in the capital city Harare said that there have been no HIV test kits since November (Wines, New York Times, 2/5). About 3,000 Zimbabweans die of AIDS-related diseases each week, and more than 700,000 children in the country have been orphaned by the disease (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/10/03). In addition, Zimbabwe's infant mortality rate rose 15% between 1999 and 2002, compared with nearby Malawi, which saw a 5% decrease over the same period, and South Africa, where the infant mortality rate has remained constant. Over the last decade, the infant mortality rate has increased from 57 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 1994 to 76 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2004, according to the Times. Zimbabwe's maternal mortality rate also has increased from four deaths for every 1,000 live births to seven deaths for every 1,000 live births. One medical professional in Harare -- speaking on the condition of anonymity -- said, "Basically, the health care system is collapsing on itself right now. There's an exodus of health care professionals from this country. And most of the rural health structures have been left under the supervision of nurses' aides who have nothing to treat patients with" (New York Times, 2/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.