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Doctors Group Says Zimbabwe Health Crisis a Crime


The health crisis in Zimbabwe should be the investigated by the International Criminal Court, campaign group Physicians for Human Rights says. The physicians group also says that without a political solution, the health care system, water and sanitation should be taken over by the United Nations.

The death toll from Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic has climbed over 2,000, as an international doctors' group accuses the government of President Robert Mugabe of crimes against humanity.

In a new 45-page report, the group says Zimbabwe's health crisis is a direct outcome of human rights violations by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

It calls on the U.N. Security Council to refer the crisis to the International Criminal Court, for investigation of crimes against humanity.

At a news conference in Johannesburg, Frank Donaghue of the Physicians for Human Rights says that while the cholera epidemic is very serious, it is only a symptom of a bigger problem in Zimbabwe.

"We realize cholera is not the issue. Cholera is a symptom of a grossly collapsed health system due to the blatant disregard for his people by Mugabe and his regime," he said.

Four investigators from the group, including two doctors, visited Zimbabwe in December to investigate the collapse of the health care system. They say with most public hospitals closed since November, the majority of Zimbabweans are being denied access to health care. They also found that clinics lack basic medicines and medical supplies, and the death rate from the cholera epidemic is more than five times higher than normal.

Donaghue said he had been going to Zimbabwe for more than a year and was shocked at what he found during the visit.

"The government has abrogated its most basic, basic state function of protecting the health of its people including the maintenance of public hospitals. There are no public hospitals. The clinics are closed. The support of its healthcare people is non-existant," said Donaghue.

David Sanders, who was trained as a medical practitioner in Zimbabwe and lectured at the now closed medical school for 14 years, was part of the team. He said that life expectancy statistics were staggering and had dropped from 62 years in 1994 to 36 years.

"Cholera and the other major health problems all can be traced to the same root cause. The root cause is economic collapse and misgovernance," said Sanders.

Donaghue says that the situation in Zimbabwe cannot continue. He said the group had made several recommendations which had serious implications for Zimbabwe.

"Probably the most radical of our recommendations is that an emergency health response needs to be put in place - the entire health system, water system, sanitation, should be handed over to a receivership, that the UN might put together a coalition of organizations or nations to manage health, water, sanitation for the Zimbabwe government because it cannot manage it itself," he added.

Zimbabwe is facing food shortages, 80 percent unemployment, and the world highest inflation rate, last measured at 231million percent. Critics blame the economic collapse on years of misguided policies, including the seizure of white-owned commercial farms. Mr. Mugabe blames the situation on sanctions and interference by Western opponents, led by Britain.


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