Zimbabwe Is Dying

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Guysanto
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Zimbabwe Is Dying

Post by Guysanto » Sat Jan 17, 2009 5:26 pm

January 17, 2009
OP-ED COLUMNIST
Zimbabwe Is Dying

By BOB HERBERT

If you want to see hell on earth, go to Zimbabwe where the madman Robert Mugabe has brought the country to such a state of ruin that medical care for most of the inhabitants has all but ceased to exist.

Life expectancy in Zimbabwe is now the lowest in the world: 37 years for men and 34 for women. A cholera epidemic is raging. People have become ill with anthrax after eating the decaying flesh of animals that had died from the disease. Power was lost to the morgue in the capital city of Harare, leaving the corpses to rot.

Most of the world is ignoring the agony of Zimbabwe, a once prosperous and medically advanced nation in southern Africa that is suffering from political and economic turmoil — and the brutality of Mugabe's long and tyrannical reign.

The decline in health services over the past year has been staggering. An international team of doctors that conducted an “emergency assessment” of the state of medical care last month seemed stunned by the catastrophe they witnessed. The team was sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights. In their report, released this week, the doctors said:

“The collapse of Zimbabwe's health system in 2008 is unprecedented in scale and scope. Public-sector hospitals have been shuttered since November 2008. The basic infrastructure for the maintenance of public health, particularly water and sanitation services, have abruptly deteriorated in the worsening political and economic climate.”

Doctors and nurses are trying to do what they can under the most harrowing of circumstances: facilities with no water, no functioning toilets and barely any medicine or supplies. The report quoted the director of a mission hospital:

“A major problem is the loss of life and fetal wastage we are seeing with obstetric patients. They come so late, the fetuses are already dead. We see women with eclampsia who have been seizing for 12 hours. There is no intensive care unit here, and now there is no intensive care in Harare.

“If we had intensive care, we know it would be immediately full of critically ill patients. As it is, they just die.”

Mugabe's corrupt, violent and profoundly destructive reign has left Zim-babwe in shambles. It's a nation overwhelmed by poverty, the H.I.V./AIDS pandemic and hyperinflation. Once considered the “breadbasket” of Africa, Zimbabwe is now a country that cannot feed its own people. The unemployment rate is higher than 80 percent. Malnutrition is widespread, as is fear.

A nurse told the Physicians for Human Rights team: “We are not supposed to have hunger in Zimbabwe. So even though we do see it, we cannot report it.”

Mugabe signed a power-sharing agreement a few months ago with a political opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, who out-polled Mugabe in an election last March but did not win a majority of the votes. But continuing turmoil, including violent attacks by Mugabe's supporters and allegations that Mugabe forces have engaged in torture, have prevented the agreement from taking effect.

The widespread skepticism that greeted Mugabe's alleged willingness to share power only increased when he ranted, just last month: “I will never, never, never surrender ... Zimbabwe is mine.”

Meanwhile, health care in Zimbabwe has fallen into the abyss. “This emergency is so grave that some entity needs to step in there and take over the health delivery system,” said Susannah Sirkin, the deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights.

In November, the primary public referral hospital in Harare, Parirenyatwa Hospital, shut down. Its medical school closed with it. The nightmare that forced the closings was spelled out in the report:

“The hospital had no running water since August of 2008. Toilets were overflowing, and patients and staff had nowhere to void — soon making the hospital uninhabitable. Parirenyatwa Hospital was closed four months into the cholera epidemic, arguably the worst of all possible times to have shut down public hospital access. Successful cholera care, treatment and control are impossible, however, in a facility without clean water and functioning toilets.”

The hospital's surgical wards were closed in September. A doctor described the heartbreaking dilemma of having children in his care who he knew would die without surgery. “I have no pain medication,” he said, “some antibiotics, but no nurses ... If I don't operate, the patient will die. But if I do the surgery, the child will die also.”

What's documented in the Physicians for Human Rights report is evidence of a shocking medical and human rights disaster that warrants a much wider public spotlight, and an intensified effort to mount an international humanitarian intervention.

Some organizations are already on the case, including Doctors Without Borders and Unicef. But Zimbabwe is dying, and much more is needed.


Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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Marilyn
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Post by Marilyn » Sun Jan 18, 2009 4:00 am

IPS Inter Press Service News Agency

ZIMBABWE: Now a 'Factory for Poverty'

Ephraim Nsingo

HARARE, Jan 17 (IPS) - Over 75 percent of the people in crisis-riddled Zimbabwe are living in desperate poverty, with children bearing the brunt. And with rival parties still wrangling over implementation of a power-sharing agreement signed four months ago, things are likely to get worse before they improve.

A report released by Save the Children (SCF) found that 10 out of the 13 million people still in Zimbabwe live in abject poverty, struggling to access food and other essentials. A local alliance of non-governmental organisations said the figures could be higher than that.

"Many children are going without education - around 75 percent of state schools are not functioning properly because the majority of state teachers are not working as they are not paid enough to survive and have to look for or work for food. Many poor families are being forced to send their children out to find work or wild foods and simply can no longer afford to send them to school," adds the report.

The Advocacy and Public Policy Manager of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), Fambai Ngirande, said the reality on the ground is actually "way beyond those figures and the situation is worsening".

"A largely man-made, preventable and grossly unnecessary situation, the result of years of failed policies and the self-seeking actions of the ruling political elites whose corrupt and undemocratic tendencies have worsened the situation by heightening the levels of inequality to alarming levels."

Ngirande said hunger was now forcing many people to resort to desperate measures like prostitution and child labour, while others were now eating poisonous roots and wild fruits.

Commuter fares in urban areas now change twice a day, forcing most workers to camp at their workplace during the week and go home only on weekends. Skilled professionals are also quitting their in droves to take up menial jobs.

Although middle class professionals like nurses and teachers have been left unable to subsist because of the crisis, Ngirande said "it is vulnerable groups such as the elderly, People Living with HIV/AIDS, orphaned children, the disabled and others that have been hardest hit".

The Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general, Raymond Majongwe said the state of poverty among teachers was a scandal.

"If you want, I can take you to Cheziya bus terminus in Gokwe, and show you a fomer headmaster who is now a rank marshall at the terminus," said Majongwe, referring to a sprawling agricultural town in the Midlands Province.

He accused the government of deliberately ignoring the plight of teachers, who have repeatedly been labelled as opposition supporters.

"It is so embarrassing the authorities continue to take this business-as-usual approach when the national fabric continues to decay. Teachers' salaries have plummeted to several points below the poverty datum line.

"Where on earth have you seen a teacher who cannot afford to buy a packet of milk from his salary? Go into any classroom right now, you will find a teacher selling sweets and other small foodstuffs in order to survive, that's not proper."

Ngirande says the country is paying a high cost in development terms.

"The desperate competition for scarce resources that has been precipitated by this poverty and inequality is breeding grounds for civil strife and social unrest especially given the present politically volatile situation."

Because while the poor continue to sink deeper into poverty, a small section of Zimbabwe's elite are enjoying every moment in Zimbabwe. They access foreign currency at official exchange rates from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for a song, which they then use for mostly illegal deals like buying and reselling cars, and dealing in gold and diamonds. The well-connected are able to import vehicles duty-free, and resell them at high prices in foreign currency.

In Harare this elite is not difficult to identify. They drive the latest fancy cars, dine at expensive restaurants such as KwaMambo in Avondale, and frequent expensive clubs like "Room 10" in plush Borrowdale Brooke, where they spend hundreds of U.S. dollars on an evening's entertainment.

But with a third of Zimbabwean children undernourished, the failure of water and sewage infrastructure triggering a cholera epidemic that has already claimed 2,200 lives, and hyperinflation officially acknowledged to be at 243 million percent - in reality much, much higher - humanitarian workers are describing Zimbabwe as "one of the world's most active factories of poverty".

Save the Children says it has scaled up its work in the areas of education, health, livelihoods, protection and food provision.

Terna Gyuse adds from Cape Town: Movement for Democratic Change leader (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai returned to Zimbabwe on Jan. 17, after more than two months spent in neighbouring South Africa and Botswana. He is expected to meet with Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) leader Robert Mugabe to restart discussions on a power-sharing deal.

Tsvangirai fell just short of outright victory in the first-round and withdrew from a run-off election in the face of brutal violence by ZANU. An agreement on sharing power was reached, but implementation stalled over the allocation of key ministries and the balance of power between the two principal parties.

"The MDC will not be bulldozed into an agreement which does not meet the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe," Tsvangirai said on his return to Harare.

(END/2009)

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