Zambia dismisses fears of health crisis

2010-06-17 11:50

Lusaka - Zambia on Wednesday played down fears of a looming health crisis after the Global Fund suspended more than $300 million in health assistance to the country citing corruption.

The freeze, the latest graft scandal to hit President Rupiah Banda before an election due next year, is likely to affect the southern African country's fight against Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

Health Minister Kapembwa Simbao said the Global Fund would still continue supporting Zambia but the funding would now be made available through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

"It is just that the Ministry of Health will no longer be the principal recipient of the funding but all the programmes will continue under UNDP," Simbao told Reuters.

"We hope that with the support of the UNDP, the Ministry of Health can build capacity to administer the funding in about one to two years."

The aid freeze comes a year after Sweden and the Netherlands suspended $33m in Health Ministry aid due to a missing $5m. Some officials were later charged with stealing the money.

The European Union has also halted aid earmarked for road construction because of concerns about graft.

University of Zambia economist Oliver Saasa said the latest suspension should serve as another warning to Banda to get serious about graft, a growing concern of donors who pay for 30% of the budget in Africa's largest copper producer.