WHO-AFRO should lead humanitarian aid efforts in Zimbabwe

September 29, 2005

The World Health Organization's Regional Office for Africa (WHO-AFRO) should take the lead in providing immediate humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe, states an editorial in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

Since May this year Operation Restore Order has led to forced evictions and demolition of communities in Zimbabwe, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless. A UN report estimated that over 79 500 people with HIV/AIDS were among those evicted and many of these individuals are experiencing disruptions to antiretroviral treatment and home-based care. The displacement could result in an increase in HIV across the country and an increase in resistance to treatment with the antiretroviral nevirapine. The conditions in Zimbabwe may also lead to the spread of other communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and pneumonia, and outbreaks of diarrhoea, dysentery, and cholera, states the editorial

The Lancet comments: "The potential public health crisis is all too apparent...It is increasingly difficult for agencies to gain access to people in holding camps to assess the level of provision of basic shelter and sanitation, let alone medical care. But such an escalating health crisis warrants an immediate response to provide humanitarian assistance where it is desperately needed. WHO-AFRO should take the lead--it has so far failed to do so."

This week's World Report looks at the humanitarian and health crisis in Zimbabwe.
-end-
Contact: The Lancet press office on 0207 424 4949/ 4249, pressoffice@lancet.com

Lancet

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