Sunday, December 7, 2008

Zimbabwe: In Harare, death with the corner of each street

Dec 5, 2008

The cholera epidemic which touches the country seems unverifiable and adds its effects to those of the shortage of food. Report in the streets of the capital, where only ONG come to assistance of the inhabitants.

We found it lying at the edge of the road, awaiting death. Since I sought victims of the cholera with Budiriro, the district more touched of Harare, my guide proposed a simple solution to me: “You have to only speak to people whom you see lying by ground.”

One should not to us a long time to have fallen on Spiwe Mangwende. Lengthened on a thin straw mattress in the shade of a stripped avocado tree, she suffers obviously. The previous week, his/her 16 year old brother, Promised Mashaire, occupied the same straw mattress before dying of the same disease, detected for the first time in August in Chitungwiza, with 30 kilometers in the south of Harare.
This 26 year old hairdresser was neat during three days with the “camp of the cholera” set up by the UNICEF in the district, before being expelled about it to make place for new victims. The camp has a hundred beds, but a person in charge explains that, during the week, 400 new victims arrived each day.

Although the government was long in declaring the state of emergency medical [last on December 5], the World Health Organization (WHO) announced more than 12.000 confirmed cases, like 575 deaths. The experts estimate however that many patients die on their premises without being indexed. UNICEF, Doctors without borders and other ONG dig wells, provide to drips for réhydrater the patients and opened 36 health care centres like that of Budiriro.

Nearly 150 people wait at the entry of the camp to know if their close relations spent the night. Two only covered bodies of a cloth pass under their eyes, in direction of the impromptu mortuary. Like the majority of the other centers, Budiriro does not have any more funeral bags. The employees of ONG do not recommend any more to the patients remained outside making boil water, for lack of fuel or wood to make boil anything. Instead of that, the day of its exit, Mangwende received two sachets of shelves of purification of water, a package of salts of rehydration, and one said to him to drink as much water than possible, than it is clean or not. On behalf of the government of Robert Mugabe, it did not obtain anything, if not the disease.

On the two sides of the straw mattress of Mangwende, and all along Willowvale Road, one sees well which is the primary source of the epidemic: ground monticules betray the presence of wells coldly dug. The drains of this over-populated district do not provide any more water, and the municipality does not intervene. Last year, whereas Zimbabwe sank in the crisis, of the hundreds of these wells made their appearance, and of the thousands in the whole the country. But the rains of summer mixed waste water with it with the damaged drains, the latrines blocked and the fields. The flies took care of the remainder.
But it is not because of a well that Mangwende caught the cholera. She lives in the largest house of the street, equipped with four parts, with a hi-fi system very last thing, a television big screen and a luxurious living room. The stink of the sewers seizes you as of the entry and worsens as one approaches the bathroom. There, the taps remain permanently open, if one or two liters of water has suddenly run. The bath-tub is full of a greenish water, so dirty which one does not see any more the bottom.

The municipality poured the cholera directly in the kitchen of Mangwende. “I am afraid, but I am also in anger”, says it while grimaçant. It makes an effort to speak. “Never I would not have believed that we would live like that. And that we would die like that. I request, but I had also requested for Promise. I do not know what will arrive to me.” Its life is the symbol even Zimbabwean nightmare. Last May, it was attacked by of “Green Bombers”, of the partisans of Mugabe thus named because of their green uniforms. Suspecting of voting for the MDC [the party of the opponent Morgan Tsvangirai], they marked the face with extreme plastic to him. A few months later, his/her father, diabetic, is deceased because one did not find any more drugs downtown. The two large hospitals of Harare were satisfied to lock their doors and are always closed today. At the end of November, it had to wait two days before learning that his/her brother, an impassioned timid young man of cricket, had died in the camp, while Budiriro was inserted in the chaos of the cholera.

Thanks to the assistance of " uncles ", Mangwende has sometimes enough money to buy what to prepare a meal per day: cabbage and a little sadza, cornstarch. _ “it there have still a year ago, one make three meal per day, with some meat, some and even of corn, tell it. Today, it is necessary to fight to buy vegetables in the street, for only one meal, and they are perhaps contaminated.”

For those which do not profit from such supports, there is nothing any more but despair. Gloria Chivendza and its four children foam the sides of the roads in corn search intended for the pigs. Sometimes, from ears fall from the trucks. It does that, says us it, “because we have very, very hunger”. When one gives him a fresh bread round loaf to thank it for the interview, it falls to knees by choking its sobs. There is more than six months that she did not see bread.
As the dusty markets that we visited in Chivu and Masvingo, that of Budiriro is empty, apart from covered fruits of flies. Still they are only wild fruits, of the muzhanji, kinds of fruits of passion collected by the children after research testing in savanna.
Last week, a gigantic tail was formed in front of the factory of Nutresco Foods. Two thousand people waited in a choking heat to buy a drink containing proteins. Each one had already made the tail to have the right to wait there. A woman explained us that this drink was the last true source of nutrition for the poor of Harare, “because the only meat which one can find, it is fish, and one says that it carries the cholera”.
Rowan Philp
Sunday Times

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