The number of women who die in childbirth in the country has doubled in the past decade because of the poor state of the health delivery system, a senior government official has said.

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Zimbabwe's prisons cannot adequately cater for juvenile and female inmates with children and there is a need to build more friendly structures for them so that rehabilitation programmes could run efficiently, an top official has said.

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The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare is set to receive a paltry US$100 million in the 2011 budget against its bid for USS$534 million amid revelations that 70% of diseases and deaths in the country, caused by malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria and pregnancy-related complications, are preventable.

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In an effort to curb child and maternal mortality rates in Zimbabwe, the United Nations and the World Bank are supporting a $700 million Government initiative to increase spending on the provision of health services in the country over the next three years.

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It has been over two years since the Government of National Unity was formed, and people want to know what has truly changed in the interim. Thanks to the work of Senator David Coltart in his capacity as the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, there have been various policy announcements in the recent months. As well as that, his ministry is currently working on a huge revamp of the Education Act.

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Zimbabwe's education ministry has backtracked on a new policy, introduced in August 2010, to grant pregnant schoolgirls and the prospective fathers maternity and paternity leave from school, and has opted for disciplinary measures instead.

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The question of children living with their parents in prison is a human rights issue which should be addressed as a matter of urgency. In the past two weeks deputy Minister of Justice Obert Gutu toured prisons in the capital city in his attempt to appreciate the conditions prisoners were living under.

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The United States has accused Zimbabwe's security forces of coercing youths into forced labour at the controversial Marange alluvial diamond fields, a charge Zimbabwe denies.

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About six million children under the age of 15 years have been immunised under the joint Child Health Day and National Immunisation Days as Government surpassed its target of five million, a senior official has said.

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Child helplines are an outstanding example of the benefits of modern communication tools in helping people access the information and resources they need.

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