ZIMBABWE'S HEALTH BUDGET LABELLED INADEQUATE

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Zimbabwe has announced that it will spend ZWD5.2trn (US$688.58mn) on the health sector in 2006 -- roughly 12% of the total budget -- with health gaining priority over other ministries such as defence. However, industry sources claim the figure is too low to improve deteriorating conditions, and criticise the fact that no specific provision has been made to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The government has earmarked health delivery as the key policy area, and has focused on procuring ambulances and medical equipment for health centres in the country. A severe shortage of hard currency as well as the increasing migration of skilled medical professionals has hit Zimbabwe's health service delivery hard in recent years. The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, which are suffering from a severe shortage of drugs.

The government's refusal to acknowledge the impact of HIV/AIDS is alarming activists. At least 1.8mn people in Zimbabwe are infected with the disease, with less than 30,000 people currently receiving ARVs.