Friday, March 18, 2005

Mugabe attacks the firefighters, while Zimbabwe burns

While most world attention on Zimbabwe is rightly focused on the oppression of the Mugabe regime, UNICEF is warning the international community not to forget about the country's AIDS crisis.

The director of the international children's fund Carol Bellamy said international sanctions aimed at President Robert Mugabe were also impacting on Zimbabwe's children. Every eighth child in Zimbabwe dies before the age of five. That death rate was up 50 percent since 1990. Every 15 minutes a Zimbabwean child dies from HIV and AIDS. One million orphans had also lost their parents to the [pandemic].

Donor funding has dropped significantly, probably due to justifiable concern over the repression and corruption of the Mugabe regime.

It means Zimbabwe receives an average of just $4 per HIV-infected person compared with $74 elsewhere, she added, according to the BBC.

It's a terrible paradox for the international community and for domestic Zimbabwean anti-AIDS groups. It would be easy to say something like, "Sanctions should punish the regime, not the citizens," but it's hard to figure out how to make that happen in practice. Only last week, the regime itself launched a campaign against the very non-governmental organizations who might led the fight against the scourge.

So how does the international community, castigated for its lack of funding, and NGOs operating in Zimbabwe move forward on the issue when it's faced with the active hostility of the regime in Harare?

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