LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia on Tuesday sacked 200 striking
doctors at a time when the country is struggling with an AIDS
crisis, a doctors' representative body said.
Dr Jonathan Tembo of the Resident Doctors Association dismissed
a government assertion that "retiring" the doctors was in the
"At a time when Zambia faces a severe shortage of doctors and
other medical staff, it has retired 200 doctors, citing public
interest. We must wonder which public," Tembo said on the
sidelines of a Consultative Group meeting between Zambia and
its foreign donors.
The doctors went on strike in December over a range of
grievances, including low pay, poor sanitation in hospitals, a
lack of paramedic staff and a shortage of medicines.
Health Minister David Mpamba promised to deal with their
complaints, but later ordered them to go back to work or lose
Mpamba told the donors' meeting that Zambia was being
overwhelmed by an AIDS crisis and was struggling to find the
cash to cope with it.
"There is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness due to the
HIV/AIDS pandemic," Mpamba said.
He said expensive servicing of Zambia's $6.5 billion external
debt burden meant there was no money for health programmes or
to train teachers and other professionals needed to replace
those killed by the AIDS virus.
Government statistics show that 1.1 million out of 11 million
Zambians, including 100,000 children, have HIV or AIDS. Some
700,000 Zambians have already died of AIDS.
Tembo said only 350 doctors remained in Zambia's public health
institutions. The doctor to patient ratio in the country is one
to 10,900. Government statistics show that 1.1 million out of
11 million Zambians, including 100,000 children, have HIV or
AIDS. Some 700,000 Zambians have already died of the disease.
By 2002, at current rates of infection, 1.6 million Zambians
will be living with HIV or AIDS and 700,000 children will be
orphaned, according to Mpamba's data.
Mpamba asked foreign donors for special cash packages directed
specifically at the campaign against HIV and AIDS, which he
said was the biggest security and economic threat to three
decades of development in Zambia.