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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 22:36 GMT
Zimbabwe freeze 'hurts children'
Zimbabwean children receiving food aid
Zimbabwe's children have the highest mortality rate, says Unicef
The head of Unicef has criticised international donors who cut off aid to Zimbabwe to punish President Mugabe.

Carol Bellamy says Zimbabwe's children suffer the most from attempts to send signals to the Mugabe government.

One child dies every 15 minutes from an Aids-related illness in a country that has seen the sharpest rise in child mortality, the Unicef head said.

But two leading donors - the United States and the World Bank - have disputed the accusation.

Unicef says one child in eight dies before the age of five in Zimbabwe - a rise of 50% since 1990, mostly due to the HIV/Aids crisis.

Zimbabwe receives an average of just $4 per HIV-infected person compared with $74 elsewhere, Ms Bellamy told reporters in Johannesburg on her last tour of Africa as head of Unicef.

People versus politics

"The world must differentiate between the politics and people of Zimbabwe," she said.

One in five children is an orphan
A child dies of Aids every 15 minutes
Under-five mortality rate has risen 50% since 1990
Source: Unicef
"Some 110 Zimbabweans under the age of 15 will become infected with HIV/Aids today. Another 110 will be infected tomorrow."

On top of that, 160,000 children will experience the death of a parent this year - adding to the generations of children already orphaned because of HIV/Aids.

Unicef accused two of the main HIV/Aids donors - the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief and the World Bank's Multi-Country HIV/Aids programme - of giving no support to Zimbabwe for 2004-2005.

The World Bank's John Donaldson said the Bank did not loan money to Zimbabwe because it did not pay its debts - Harare was $335m in arrears as of last month, he said.

But he added that financial and political concerns were often intertwined in such cases.

Donor dilemma

"There is a dilemma you have in countries like this - you still have poor people and development needs," he told the BBC News website.

Mr Donaldson, a senior spokesman for the Bank's Africa regional office, said the Bank "cannot, nor would we make payments to the government there", but that it did work through other agencies such as UNAids and the World Health Organisation "to address the profound HIV/Aids problem".

A spokesperson for President Bush's global Aids coordinator said Zimbabwe had received money from his relief programme.

Elissa Pruett was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying Zimbabwe received $16m from the fund in 2004 and would receive $20m in 2005.

Zimbabwe lost favour with donors because of the political problems that began with President Mugabe's programme of land distribution in 2000.

Mr Mugabe has been accused of manipulating food aid for political advantage.

Parliamentary elections are due in Zimbabwe on 31 March.

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