First AIDS, now cholera:
Zimbabwe's newest orphans
By Columbus Mavhunga
(Zimbabwe), Dec 10 (DPA) In Chitungwiza, a sprawling township
about 30 km southeast of Zimbabwe's capital Harare, a group
of women and girls are lining up with tin cans to fetch water
from a shallow well near a river.
a scene common in southern Africa but rare in urban areas,
where piped water is usually available in homes or at a communal
the taps have been running dry for months now in Zimbabwe,
forcing people to scrounge water from unprotected sources
like these, by rivulets of raw sewage and festering mounds
of uncollected garbage.
is here that the cholera outbreak that has claimed nearly
600 lives began in August before spreading to nine of the
country's ten provinces.
children are particularly vulnerable to cholera, some have
lost their parents to the disease yet themselves survived
to face an uncertain future.
them is 17-year-old Juliet Shayanewako (not her real name).
The 19 month-old baby slung across her back with a piece of
cloth is not her son, but her younger brother, Raphael.
was thrust into the role of surrogate parent after losing
both her mother and father to cholera in September. The two
died within three days of each other.
the water on her head, Raphael bobbing in time with her gait,
Juliet leads the way to her home - a single room in a four-room
and my sister (age six) were in the rural areas when they
fell sick and died," says Juliet, gingerly setting down
the baby and water. "By the time we returned, they had
the funeral, Juliet's maternal grandmother looked after the
children for about two months before returning to her rural
now stay alone - the three of us," Juliet says. "Relatives
have been coming with food but they are no longer coming as
frequently as before."
is receiving assistance from non-governmental organisations
in the form of infant milk formula and cereals. "But
at one time they ran out because we had also started feeding
on them - our maize meal had run out," she says. "Now,
I make sure that we do not take his food."
one knows yet how many children have been orphaned by cholera,
the latest crisis to hit a once prosperous nation that has
been run into the ground by populist policies.
half the population of 12 million is in need of food aid,
making them weak and vulnerable to disease.
has the world's highest rate of orphaned children. Over one
million children have lost one or both parents, mostly from
HIV/AIDS (16 percent of adults are infected with the virus),
or poverty-related diseases.
Bongani and his six-year-old brother Sibanengi (names changed)
from Budiriro township about 30 km west of Chitungwiza lost
a parent to each HIV/AIDS and cholera.
is one of areas worst affected by the cholera outbreak. The
boys' mother died last Saturday at a nearby clinic set up
to specially for cholera victims.
father died of AIDS last year.
good thing is that cholera is likely to be a thing of the
past now since the UN, Britain and other big organisations
are going to assist," their uncle says, referring to
the unusually frank appeal by Zimbabwe's government last week
for international aid over the outbreak, which it termed an
experts point out that, while the call for a help was an important
first step, much more needs to be done to prevent cholera
deaths shooting up into the thousands.
are a lot of things that need to be done before victory (over
cholera) is proclaimed. For example, the supply of safe drinking
water and proper disposal of garbage and sewage has to improve
quickly," says Marcus Bachmann of Medecins sans Frontieres
(Doctors Without Borders) medical NGO.
some children have outlived their parents, the United Nations
children's agency Unicef says children are the most vulnerable
in Zimbabwe are on the brink, and everyone's focus must now
be on their survival," Unicef acting country representative
Roeland Monasch said.