Torture – shocking stats

HARARE - One in 10 Zimbabweans need psychological help and one in 10 people over the age of 30 in Matabeleland is a survivor of torture. These shocking statistics were revealed this week by Amani Trust and ActionAid in the lead-up to the June 26 UN international day in support of torture victims.

R>ActionAid, an NGO that surveyed 824 people affected by Operation Murambatsvina, found that 69% of the victims were in need of clinical help or psychological attention. The group conservatively estimated that 820,000 people in Zimbabwe need psychological assistance.
Rape, electrocution, severe beatings on the body and the soles of the feet, forced nakedness, witnessing the torture of family members and friends and mock executions are all part of a long list of horrifying state-sanctioned acts with which huge numbers of Zimbabweans are all too familiar.
The implications are dire for Zimbabwean society as a whole if the situation is not dealt with immediately. According to a spokesman from the Amani Trust, Zimbabwe has a population that has been exposed to “multiple traumas” which, if untreated, will become “chronic disorders”.
The population of the country is estimated at 12 million, but at least three million, including most health professionals, live in exile.
Tragically, the likelihood of any help for these people is non-existent. “As the government sanctions torture as a method of keeping the population under control and with the health sector having collapsed, the hope of any of them receiving the necessary treatment is out of the question,” said Amani.
The victims of Operation Murambatsvina are still without shelter more than 12 months after bulldozers razed their homes to the ground. Government has refused NGOs permission to help them – even with the basic necessities such as food, clothing and medicines.
To add to their misery, 85% are now unemployed. One in four are HIV positive and have no access to appropriate medication.
A number of Zimbabwean torture survivors will share their experiences at a service to be held at St Martins-in-the-fields, Trafalgar Square, London at 5.30 pm on June 26.
One of them, Patson Muzuwa, who is also chairman of the Zimbabwe Association, welcomed the service as a chance to “mourn what happened to us in Zimbabwe, which we cannot say in public.”
Muzuwa fled his homeland in 2001 after being severely tortured by the police. He was electrocuted during interrogation and severely beaten on the ribs, arms and soles of his feet. He sought asylum in Britain after being beaten unconscious in his house in front of his neighbours. He arrived at the airport with stitches in his head and two broken hands.
Since then he has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of torture survivors, speaking to the European Parliament in both 2003 and 2004. He will address a closed meeting at the House of Lords on Monday.

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