Mbare’s rubbish dump children fight for survival

MBARE - "Ukaita bvepfepfe haulumi (Don't rush. Good things come to those who wait)," streetwise Pride, a famished 10-year-old street urchin shouts to his colleagues while combing a rubbish dump next to a fast food outlet in Mbare. To earn his living, the boy has to plunge into the stinking mor

ass every day, looking for food or for junk that he can sell for recycling.
If he is not lucky at the rubbish dump, he goes for rubbish bins dotted around Mbare National. “There is serious poverty here and people don’t throw away anything nowadays,” the boy said. His afternoon’s scavenging had turned up half a tomato, the remains of a can of food, some stale bread, pieces of scrap and tyres.
Every Sunday, Mishek and his seven-year-old sister Rusape leave the shack, which serves as their home on the edge of the dump and head for Mbare’s major market, the Musika. Amid the roar of diesel engines from the nearby bus station and the shouts of the market sellers, the children try to sell scrap and old tyres for a few Zimbabwean bearer cheques.
Since independence, Mbare has remained the poorest neighbourhood in the capital, overcrowded, filthy and infested by criminals. Pride set up home on the dump when his mother, who was bringing him up alone, died of Aids. “No one helped us,” he said. “Our family was too poor, the social workers have too many children to help and no money.” Pride’s friend, Emmaculate, says he has been homeless ever since Operation Murambatsvina.
Gift Chimanikire, the MDC MP for the area, says the neighbourhood is dangerously overpopulated. “Two years after Murambatsvina, a lot of people still do not even have a roof over their heads and live in desperate hygiene conditions,” said Chimanikire, who was born in Mbare and spent his pre-parliamentary career there.
“We know that more and more children do not go to school, prostitute themselves or do degrading work because of the economic crisis or Aids, which has made more than a million orphans out of a total population of 12 million,” he said. “We know all this, but what can we do without money?”
An official with the agency for the homeless Streets Ahead, declining to be named, said that humanitarian associations were “submerged by the situation” in view of the increase in the numbers of street children over the past few years. “We just cannot count them because we find new ones every day,” he said.
On the dump, Pride is training up his sister to her future career as a sifter of rubbish. “It is better than being a prostitute. At least like this, anotomboluma (she will get something),” he says. – Chief Reporter

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