In praise of … Zimbabwe’s children

aids_familyYesterday morning Radio 4's Today programme broadcast a heart-rending report from Zimbabwe. It put the concerns of British political life, which usually dominate the show, into moving human context. (Pictured : Living with aids and the people who care for them)

The third in a series of pieces recorded undercover in the country by the BBC‘s correspondent, Mike Thomson, it described the life of a 14-year old boy, Patrick. His father is dead and his mother is dying with Aids. He cares for her and his 10-year-old sister – trying, he said, to be both a mother and a father to her. His story was bleak and simple, and it is being repeated all over Zimbabwe, a country, Thomson reported this week, where there are 1.5 million orphans among only 11 million people. “I no longer go to school – that dream is over,” said Patrick, who has cared for his family since he was 12. Each day, he said, he cleaned clothes, fetched water and firewood, and looked for food, begging from neighbours.
“Sometimes I am lucky and sometimes I am not,” he said sadly. When his mother is very ill, he carries her to hospital. He takes her to the toilet. “Only when I die will he have his freedom,” said his mother – but Patrick insisted he would never abandon his sister. It is hard to see much hope for him: Aids and Zimbabwe’s economic collapse are crushing lives, and the country’s new unity government has not yet made much of a difference. Thomson’s reports – still available online – are a reminder of how much people can suffer in their lives, and how nobly and calmly they can respond.

Post published in: Opinions

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