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Infant Mortality On Rise, says Zimbabwe Health Minister

The Zimbabwe health minister says the country's infant mortality rate is rising.

Dr. David Parirenyatwa told a Regional Health Ministers Conference in Zimbabwe that between 1985 and 1999 the infant mortality rate rose from 40 to 65 for every 1,000 live births. He says the mortality rate for children under five rose from 59 to 102 per 1,000 births during the same time period.

The minister, who was quoted in the state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald, said the numbers mean that one in 15 children will die before turning one year old, while one in 10 will die before their fifth birthday.

He told the conference being held in the resort town of Victoria Falls that the rise in mortality is linked to the direct and indirect impact of HIV and AIDS and the rise in poverty levels in the country.

Zimbabwe is listed as having the third-worst child mortality rating - behind Iraq and Botswana - in the 2004 United Nations Development Program's Human Development Report.

The country has been one of the hardest hit by the HIV and AIDS pandemic, with one in every four adults HIV positive. Three-thousand people die of AIDS-related diseases every week.

Dr. Parirenyatwa said the government is trying to reduce parent to child HIV transmission at birth through the use of anti-retrovirals and caesarian section child delivery.

He said the government is trying to stimulate what he called broad-based sustainable economic growth and development and to consolidate public child feeding programs.