It's worse than I thought in Zimbabwe. Much worse than the last reports I saw. The London Times reported April 2, 2006, that twenty newborn babies are being thrown away each week in Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare as that nation starves.
The dumping of babies, along with what doctors describe as a “dramatic” increase in malnourished children in city hospitals, is the most shocking illustration of the economic collapse of a country that was once the breadbasket of southern Africa.
Some of the corpses are the result of unwanted pregnancies in a country experiencing a rise in sexual abuse and prostitution. But others are newborns dumped by desperate mothers unable to support another child. Inflation has reached 1,000% and the government’s seizure of 95% of commercial farms has seen food production plummet.
“We’re losing an average of two people a week here [in an old squatter settlement] to starvation,” said Pastor Edwin, showing some abandoned shelters where the inhabitants have died. “Several times I’ve been called to places urgently, only to find they have already died of starvation. I see the signs everywhere — the hands and feet grey like bark.”
Michael Huggins, a spokesman for the WFP in southern Africa, said: “If this was Niger or Ethiopia you would see dead bodies everywhere. For some reason Zimbabwe stays afloat and one of those reasons is remittances.”
An estimated 3.4m Zimbabweans have fled the country, most to South Africa but also to the UK and Botswana. And with £1 now equivalent to more than Z$300,000, the small amounts of hard currency they manage to send back can sustain their families.
World Vision, one of the agencies that distributes WFP food, has taken to defining the needy as those who do not have a relation overseas.
And food isn't the only crisis. Health care in Zimbabwe is in shambles. Because of the under-nutrition, people who get infected with HIV develop full-blown AIDS in a matter of months, instead of the ten years it takes for a healthy person. One hospital the reporter visited has "no gloves or hand-wash solution, no drugs to treat tuberculosis and no antibiotics."
“There’s no saline for drips, because it was used for washing as there was no sterile hand wash. It’s desperate. Quite a number of us are thinking about giving up. Yet when I came here 20 years ago, this health service was one of the best on the continent.”
I can't imagine. Conditions in Zimbabwe are beyond belief--it's the only country in Africa that is shrinking in population. And the president, Robert Mugabe, refuses to ask for food aid from the rest of the world, because that would admit the failure of his land reform program. So he lets his people starve to save his own pride. It won't be long, if he doesn't change, before Mugabe is president of nothing.