Settlement deaths, tip of iceberg

thokozani_khupe2HARARE - Shocking child deaths being recorded at Hopley Farm settlement near Harare are replicated throughout the city because of poor funding and equipment, top local authority officials has said. (Pictured: Deputy PM Thokozani Khupe)

Amnesty International recently released a report detailing how the death of 21 newborn babies within the first five months of this year highlighted unacceptably high child mortality rates caused by poor sanitary conditions. The farm houses families evicted by government during its unpopular Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Order in 2005.

There is no major difference between what is happening here and the situation in all parts of the city, a city health director, Prosper Chonzi, said during a visit to settlement by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe this week following the Amnesty report.

Some of the equipment is non-functional. There is too much pressure on resources and the city is suffering from inadequate funding, he said. Like Khupe, Chonzi appealed to Western donors to intervene with funding. Harare City Council, with 58 health institutions, is the countrys biggest health provider and is in a dire situation, Chonzi later told ZimOnline. We serve about three million people and that is just a night population because during the day we have patients coming to our institutions from areas outside Harare because their situation could be worse than ours, he said.

Hopley Farm is holding 25 000 people against the initial population of 2 000 in 2005 when vicious police and other State agencies razed down thousands of homes in an operation government defended as necessary to restore order, but said by the UN to have affected close to a million people. During her tour of Hopely Farm, Khupe, who is deputy leader of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirais MDC party, came face to face with the humanitarian disaster unfolding at settlement. Unrelenting flies swarmed her and her delegation as they assessed the state of the toilets. Residents told her this was their everyday life, and accused the government of dumping them.

Running water is scarce, the swampy settlement smells of sewer and residents live in falling grass, wooden and mud structures clearly worse than the city backyard shacks and shantytown homes destroyed by police bulldozers during Murambatsvina. This has become a death compound. Everyday someone, especially children, dies here of causes that could have been prevented had government chosen to stick to its promises when it forced us here. Government has reduced to worse than dogs, Yvonne Bosha, a resident at Hopley, told Khupe.

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