A group of doctors from South Africa and Uganda say
international medical organizations must "loudly and clearly" condemn human
rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Their comments appear on the website of the British
Medical Journal, BMJ.Com.
doctors say, "The people of Zimbabwe deserve the support of those who claim to
uphold the traditions and healing and caring.
of the authors of the article is Dr. Dan Ncayiyana, editor of the South
African Medical Journal and professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at
the Durban University of Technology. From Durban, he told VOA English to Africa
Service reporter Joe De Capua why international medical organizations should
speak out on Zimbabwe.
"I think it is the job of international medical
organizations because the issues involved are human rights issues. And the
medical fraternity across the world ought to be concerned about issues relating
to human rights," he says.
about the situation in Zimbabwe, Dr. Ncayiyana says, "Conditions in Zimbabwe
are hellish at the moment. And the human rights group (Zimbabwean Association
of Doctors for Human Rights)…reports that hospitals are overwhelmed by victims
of violence by police, and the army and militia."
BMJ editorial describes Zimbabwe's health care system as being in "shambles,"
after once being rated one of the best on the continent. Dr. Ncayiyana says,
"There's been an exodus of health care providers, professionals, from
Zimbabwe.… The other issue is that of a shortage of supplies. The hospitals
simply don't have the equipment and supplies to take care of sick people,
whether they are victims of violence or not." He adds that there is also a lack
of adequate transportation to take sick people to hospitals.
why the medical profession would be upholding the tradition of healing by
taking on human rights issues in Zimbabwe, he says, "I believe that buried
somewhere in the Hippocratic Oath is an undertaking to care about how people
are treated around the world. You know, the WHO (World Health organization)
defines health as not only the absence of infirmities, but well-being, the
general well-being. And abuse of people actually undermines that well-being and
causes disease because it causes people to suffer and die. And just as much as
we as a medical profession strive to prevent diseases like polio and so on, we
should also be committed to preventing human abuses that in fact affect peoples' lives and health."
BMJ editorial also calls the Zimbabwean Association of Doctors for Human Rights
the "moral conscience" of the medical profession, praising it for standing up
to the government of President Mugabe.
"I think that the medical profession
should be the moral conscience of society when it comes to human rights as they
affect people's health and well-being. And of course health in general because
that's what our calling is. Our calling is to promote the best possible health
condition for our people," he says.