Child mortality is on the increase in Zimbabwe, according to the country's health minister.

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa is quoted in the state-controlled daily newspaper, The Herald as saying one in every 15 Zimbabwean children will die before his first birthday. Quoting the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey, Parirenyatwa added that one in 10 children would die before turning five.

The survey shows a rise from 59 to 102 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1985 and 1999. It also shows that more children die in rural than urban areas.

Maternal mortality more than doubled from 283 per 100,000 live births in 1994 to 695 between 1995 and 1999.

Parirenyatwa says one of the reasons for the increases was the high cost of health care, which is beyond the reach of the majority of Zimbabweans. He says, although public health institutions should not charge anything for treating children under five or pregnant mothers who cannot pay, some insist on payment.

Zimbabwe's health care system, once among the best in Africa, is reeling under the HIV and AIDS pandemic,compounded by a worsening economic crisis, which has caused an exodus of trained personnel to other countries and a severe shortage of drugs.