A little boy died this week

BY LITANY BIRD
Dear Family and Friends,
Shortly after Christmas a woman gave me a little parcel she had brought from a friend in Australia. In the parcel was a hand knitted jersey and matching woolly hat. There was nothing at all fancy about the garments, they were just simple and practical an

d had been made with love and care by someone who wanted to help a child in Zimbabwe.
Made using little scraps of left over wool, the jersey and hat were bright and colourful and consisted of a series of yellow, blue, green and brown stripes. The message which came to me with the parcel was that I should please find and then give the jersey and hat to a child in need. That wasn’t hard at all and I didn’t have to look far. In mid January I gave the jersey and hat to a three-year-old boy. His mother, unemployed and living in basic and very primitive conditions, was thrilled – these would be perfect for her son this winter, she told me as she clapped in gratitude with cupped hands.
This week, just four months later, that woman buried her son on a cold and windy morning. The events of the past fortnight have been utterly desperate, any mother’s worst nightmare. Stomach cramps, vomiting and then difficulty in breathing and at last the child was admitted to hospital. Being admitted to hospital was a marathon which required a rubber stamp in an exercise book and Z$800,000 before anyone would even look at her son.
This is a very far cry (more like a desperate scream) from our government’s promise of Free Health For All by the year 2000. Four days later wearing the bright striped jersey which came from a stranger in Australia, the little boy passed away in hospital. For his mother the nightmare was just beginning. The hospital would not release her son’s body until four million dollars was paid. The cheapest coffin was three million dollars, a grave site in a local cemetery was seven million dollars. Now, overcome with grief, swamped with debt and engulfed in the despair of it all, the little boy’s Mum is struggling to find the will to go on.
The statistics say that we have the lowest life expectancy in the world: 34 years for women and 37 years for men – and how do you measure what life expectancy is for our children? With our monstrous inflation children are dying here. Day after day children are not getting enough to eat and what little food they have is mostly just maize meal porridge. Mothers cannot afford the simplest foods to make their children strong – they cannot afford milk, eggs, meat or even peanut butter.
People are dying here in Zimbabwe but it seems none of our leaders are able to see or deal with the real priorities anymore. This week the government is talking about building new complexes at borders and airports. I wonder if any of our leaders, from any party, care about a little three-year-old boy who died this week. A little boy wearing a bright striped jersey made with love by a woman who cares in Australia. Until next week, ndini shamwari yenyu.

Life after Mugabe
Words, words, words

Post published in: Opinions

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