Nick Herbert visits Zimbabwe

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert visited Zimbabwe last week in his role as Co-Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB.

The MP takes a close interest in humanitarian issues relating to tuberculosis, which still kills 1.5 million a year worldwide, despite being easily and cheaply curable.

Zimbabwe has the third highest TB mortality rate in sub-Saharan Africa, and 80 per cent of TB patients are co-infected with HIV.

50 people a day are dying of HIV related causes in the country, and one in four children have lost one or both parents to AIDS - the highest rate in the world.  In 1990 the life expectancy for Zimbabweans was 60.  Now it is 37 for men and 34 for women - the lowest in the world.

Until recent years, Zimbabwe was renowned for being the ‘bread basket of Africa'.  However, due to the appalling mismanagement and corruption of the Mugabe regime, the Zimbabwean economy has collapsed.  GDP has halved in a decade and unemployment is estimated to be 94 per cent.

Violent farm seizures have been catastrophic for agricultural production.  Half the population is now receiving food aid, and a cholera outbreak last year killed thousands of people.

Nick Herbert joined Mike Mandelbaum, Chief Executive of the Brighton-based charity TB Alert, in visiting TB clinics and hospitals.

The MP also met farmers whose property had been seized, including one who returned from holiday to find his house and farm occupied.  Farms continue to be attacked and over 1.5 million farm workers have been displaced.

Nick Herbert said: "I saw how important international aid is to the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe.  A project I visited run by Médecins Sans Frontières is providing drugs to thousands of HIV and TB patients who would otherwise have no access at all to these life saving treatments.

"Despite the serious decline that the country has suffered in the last ten years, there is some optimism that the fragile power sharing arrangement now in place between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai may pave the way to a brighter future.

"I hope so for the people of Zimbabwe who have suffered terribly in recent years."

The MP also visited Zambia where he visited TB clinics and also met with the Agriculture Minister.  His visits to both countries were funded privately, not at the taxpayers' expense.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. The photograph shows Nick visiting MSF's HIV/AIDs & TB clinic in Epworth, Harare. Epworth is one of the poorest surburbs in Harare. Many patients have to walk up to three hours to visit the clinic.

2. For MSF's website visit http://www.msf.org.uk/zimbabwe.focus.

3. For TB Alert's website visit http://www.tbalert.org/.

4. For the website of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on TB, visit http://www.appg-tb.org.uk/ .

5. For information on the situation in Zimbabwe visit the Foreign Office's website http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/about-the-fco/country-profiles/sub-saharan-africa/zimbabwe.

Ed Barker