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Inside Zimbabwe's healthcare crisis

The collapse of Zimbabwe's health sector, once the envy of many African countries, has quickly spread the country's internal crisis to neighboring countries.

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Lucia Munenzwa was shell-shocked when she was presented with a list of items that the local clinic needed for her to give birth at the health center.

Top of the list were 10 pairs of latex gloves to be used by the midwives. There were also a surgical blade, clamp cord, cotton wool, linen saver, and rehydration fluid. To buy all the requirements, Ms. Munenzwa, a young widow who survives by selling items on the street, needed about $20 billion Zimbabwean dollars (nearly US $40) – a figure well beyond the reach of any ordinary Zimbabwean.

"The nurses have just told me that without the items, they can't allow me to give birth here," she said with tears in her eyes as she walked out of the clinic, heading home. Two days later, Munenzwa gave birth at home, with the assistance of an elderly neighbor. She named her baby boy Lucky.

The collapse of Zimbabwe's health sector, once the envy of many African countries, may seem to be an internal matter – yet another sign of the country's economic woes. But the flood of an estimated 3 million Zimbabwean refugees from their country – fleeing as much for food and medical care as for political freedom – has quickly spread Zimbabwe's internal crisis to other countries. The ongoing anti-immigrant violence in South Africa shows that Zimbabwe's problems have regional repercussions, putting pressure on African leaders to come up with solutions ... fast.


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