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Donors Freeze Aid to Zambia after Corruption Scandal

Sweden and the Netherlands have frozen $33 million in aid to Zambia because of alleged corruption in the country's health ministry.

Zambian officials say senior Health Ministry officials embezzled $2 million. Several of the officials have been suspended while authorities investigate.

Talking to reporters Thursday, Zambian Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane said he regrets the possible theft of public funds and the suspension of the aid. He said the aid helps "the poorest of the poor" in Zambia.

Health Minister Kapembwa Simbao says the aid being withheld will result in a monthly shortfall of nearly $5 million, mostly for programs treating HIV and malaria.

The $33 million in frozen funds is about a fourth of the total aid Sweden and the Netherlands pledged to give Zambia in 2009.

Civic groups in Zambia have criticized President Rupiah Banda for being soft on corruption.

Mr. Banda's predecessor, Levy Mwanawasa, was popular with western donors for his anti-corruption efforts.

Mr. Banda was elected last year following the death of Mr. Mwanawasa.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters