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  • Christine Chumbler
    May 1, 2002
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      US Withholds US $47m From Blantyre
      African Eye News Service (Nelspruit)
      April 30, 2002
      Posted to the web April 30, 2002
      Brian Ligomeka
      Blantyre
      The international monetary fund (IMF) has withheld US$47 million in aid to Malawi because the government failed to conclude 'greed reforms'.
      The IMF has only granted US$8 million out of a promised US$55million towards a three-year poverty reduction and growth project.
      The money was supposed to have been released following the conclusion of macroeconomic and structural reviews by the Malawi government.
      But IMF resident representative Girma Begashaw said the disbursement timetable was not met because the reviews were still pending.
      "Government will need to bring the programme on track by implementing the agreed macroeconomic and structural reform measures so that disbursements can resume," Begashaw said.
      He said the IMF was working closely with government to create policies that would reduce poverty and restore macroeconomic stability to the country in the long run.
      Malawi has been blacklisted by many foreign donors who cite non-compliance with structural reforms, lack of good governance, corruption and political intolerance.
      Denmark withdrew support completely while Britain and the European Union are delaying budgetary support.
      The Malawi government has since pledged to devise strict budgetary controls to win back donor confidence.
      Finance minister Friday Jumbe said the government would suspend non-essential expenditure and reduce internal and external travel.

      *****

      Malnutrition Aids Cholera Epidemic
      UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
      May 1, 2002
      Posted to the web May 1, 2002
      Malawi is currently experiencing its worst ever cholera epidemic, and experts believe malnutrition, mismanagement and a lack of capacity have aided the outbreak.
      The cholera epidemic has already claimed nearly 1,000 lives. It peaked in February and March with about 40,000 reported cases and is on a downward trend in terms of infection rates, said World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Youcef Chellouche.
      Malawi is also experiencing a severe food shortage that has left large parts of the population more vulnerable to disease.
      Chellouche told IRIN on Wednesday that an inter-agency assessment was being conducted to establish what role mismanaged responses to the outbreak had played in abetting the epidemic. The assessment would also interrogate what impact the food crisis and malnutrition has had on the situation.
      "This is not easy to conclude ... we will compile all the findings [of the assessment] around 17 May and we will have a common analysis of the roles of malnutrition and mismanagement," he said.
      A key area of concern was also the lack of capacity to deal with the epidemic. "We've seen how ... from time to time, the problem is not mismanagement but that there is just no capacity," Chellouche said.
      A WHO report on the current cholera situation in the country said: "Over the last five years Malawi has experienced cholera epidemics of varying magnitude. The current season, which started on 28 October 2001, is described as the worst that the country has ever faced."
      By early April, 980 deaths were recorded and the number may have risen.
      "So far, all of the 27 districts have reported at least one case except Rumphi in in the north. Lilongwe district where the capital city is located leads all other districts in disease burden with 5,537 cases and 160 deaths," the WHO report said.
      Districts in the centre and south of the country were more affected by the current epidemic. WHO said districts that were close to natural lakes were especially in danger as this was "where the epidemic usually starts before spreading to other districts".
      As part of an ongoing UN inter-agency assessment on Malawi's critical food shortage and related health impact, WHO and its health partners were to visit district health management teams, health facilities, and communities in the most affected areas.
      The assessment would identify strengths and weaknesses of the current response to the cholera epidemic and identify immediate needs for support, and devise a plan for preparation and response for the 2002/03 cholera season.
      Some of the questions that will be answered by the assessment are whether the outbreak was identified early enough, and whether the response was adequate.
      Also under scrutiny will be factors that contributed to the high fatality rate and whether the key partners (Ministry of Health, UN agencies, NGO's and communities) were properly coordinated.
      "With this information in hand, Malawi should be able to improve the response to the current epidemic and be better prepared for the next season," WHO said.

      *****

      Fumes From Broken Incinerator Waft Into Hospital
      African Eye News Service (Nelspruit)
      April 30, 2002
      Posted to the web April 30, 2002
      Brian Ligomeka
      Blantyre
      Fumes from the dilapidated incinerator at Malawi's largest hospital are wafting into the wards, raising concerns of health risks.
      Senior incinerator attendant at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Nelson Tayison, said the 40-year-old incinerator had not been repaired for a "long time."
      "Government is making some efforts to install a new incinerator but we understand the project stalled due to lack of funds," he said.
      He said he and his three colleagues were no longer issued with safety clothing and instead shared their overalls.
      "We do not even have gum boots but are provided with two overalls, which we exchange when we change shifts every week," he said.
      He said there was also a shortage of paraffin and firewood to burn waste from the hospital and that he and his colleagues often had to scrounge for cardboard to set the waste alight.
      "Without firewood or paraffin we have difficulty setting waste alight, especially the waste from the maternity wards," he said.
      Malawi's health minister Yusuf Mwawa said it was extremely dangerous for a health facility like Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital to have an ill-functioning incinerator.
      "The government will ensure that a new incinerator is installed by the end of the year," he assured.

      *****

      Blantyre to Review Sexist Bill
      African Eye News Service (Nelspruit)
      April 30, 2002
      Posted to the web April 30, 2002
      Brian Ligomeka
      Blantyre
      Malawi is reviewing a proposed bill to jail child and women prostitutes after President Bakili Muluzi rejected it because it discriminated against women.
      The law proposed that convicted female prostitutes face 14 years in jail with hard labour, but Muluzi said he couldn't sign a bill that didn't punish their male clients.
      "If the law only targets women and leaves out the men, who are the clients of sex workers, I will not sign it," Muluzi said.
      On Monday, Malawi justice minister and attorney general Henry Phoya said the bill was being reviewed.
      "We are definitely sending it back to the law commission since the president said he will not sign it," Phoya said.
      Former attorney general Peter Fachi proposed the bill, which, if passed unaltered, would target commercial sex workers, pimps and brothel owners.

      *****

      Guardian reporter arrested in
      Zimbabwe

      Harare | Wednesday

      ANDREW Meldrum, a correspondent for London's Guardian
      newspaper, was arrested on Wednesday morning under President
      Robert Mugabe's new press-gag law, members of his family said
      in Harare.
      Police arrived at 50-year-old Meldrum's home at 7.40am and took
      him to Harare central police station, a relative said.
      He was with his lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa.
      He was arrested under the Access to Information and Protection
      of Privacy Act for allegedly abusing journalistic privilege and
      publishing falsehoods.
      It was not immediately clear what, if any, of his reports the charge
      referred to.
      The charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail or a
      fine of 100 000 Zimbabwean dollars.
      Meldrum, an American citizen, arrived in Zimbabwe shortly after
      independence in 1980 and holds permanent residence.
      Two local journalists, Lloyd Mudiwa and Collin Chiwanza of the
      Daily News, the country's only independent daily newspaper, are
      still in custody after being arrested on Tuesday morning under the
      same law.
      Their detention was over a report by Mudiwa last week that
      quoted an elderly farmer from a remote tribal area in northern
      Zimbabwe as saying that a mob of Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party
      youths had beheaded his wife.
      The Daily News later reported that they had been hoodwinked by
      the elderly husband.
      The new press act became law on March 15, and since then
      seven journalists have been arrested and subsequently released.
      Among them are Geoff Nyarota, the Daily News editor, Iden
      Wetherell, editor of the privately owned weekly Zimbabwe
      Independent, and Peta Thornycroft, correspondent for London's
      Daily Telegraph.
      In the last two years, the country's independent media has
      suffered constant state harassment. The Daily News has twice
      come under bomb attack, the first in 2000 when a small explosive
      device went off at its offices in central Harare.
      In January last year its printing presses were destroyed in a
      massive blast.
      The government has also clamped down on visits by foreign
      correspondents and most have to enter the country as tourists to
      be able to report. - Sapa-AFP

      *****

      Why Mugabe lost his cool
      during UN meeting

      Kinshasa | Wednesday

      A DAY after a meeting in Harare between Zimbabwean President
      Robert Mugabe and UN Security Council ambassadors ended in a
      heated argument, an explanation has emerged as to the cause of
      the outburst.
      Journalists waiting outside the meeting on Monday in Mugabe's
      office heard the diplomatic encounter degenerate into a shouting
      match but were unable to hear the Zimbabwean leader's actual
      words.
      Sources present at the encounter, which was aimed at
      accelerating the peace process in the Democratic Republic of
      Congo, where Zimbabwe has troops, explained over cocktails on
      Tuesday night that the row began when US Ambassador Richard
      Williamson delivered a bilateral message from Washington.
      Williamson reiterated his government's sentiment that Mugabe's
      recent election victory fell far short of being free and fair and that
      the attendant abuse and killings of farmers and repression of the
      media were beyond the pale, the sources said.
      Suddenly snapping out of a rather convivial mood, Mugabe rose to
      his feet, barely able to control his rage.
      "Well I don't think George Bush won the US election!" he
      thundered.
      "But I accepted the victory after the Supreme Court ruling."
      He continued in this excited vein for a good 10 minutes, the
      sources said.
      Asked if anything else of note occurred on Monday evening, one
      diplomat present said: "Not really. But he did serve us fish
      fingers." - Sapa-AFP
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