Children bearing the brunt of Zimbabwe's meltdown

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Save the Children today reveals the massive difficulties facing Zimbabwe's six million children

In a new briefing released on the day Zimbabweans vote in the presidential elections, the charity, which has been working in Zimbabwe for 25 years, highlights rising levels of chronic malnutrition among children, an acute lack of adequate healthcare and the highest number of orphans per capita in the world. The briefing also brings to light the hundreds of children illegally crossing the Zimbabwe border every week to find work in neighbouring countries. Many risk rape and violence, or subject themselves to highly dangerous work such as mining or prostitution, to get money back to their families inside Zimbabwe.

Crumbling infrastructure has had disastrous consequences on health services, which are profoundly under-staffed as skilled workers stream out of the country to find work. Drought, flooding and poor agricultural policies have led to successive poor harvests, and a recent survey of 60,000 under-fives found that around 30 per cent of children in rural areas were suffering from long-term malnutrition.

Rachel Pounds, Save the Children's director in Zimbabwe, said: "Daily life for most children in Zimbabwe has become unbearable. Every element of their lives has been affected. Children are going hungry and suffering from illness because they can't get enough clean water to drink. Their families can't afford to get them help when they are sick and one in ten children will not make it to their fifth birthday.

Pounds continued: "Children are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, and the misery is compounded by high rates of HIV and AIDS. With the highest number of orphans per capita in the world, many children are now struggling to bring up their siblings alone, unable to go to school or feed their families properly, and are often living in isolation and fear. Zimbabwe’s children are some of the most vulnerable in the world."

Source: Save the Children