Sunday, April 02, 2006

Baby Dumping

THE first time Knowledge Mbanda found a dead baby in the drains of Harare, he was horrified. “It is completely against our culture to abandon children,” he said. “I thought it must be of a woman who had been raped or a prostitute.”

But now he and fellow council workers find at least 20 corpses of newborn babies each week, thrown away or even flushed down the lavatories of Zimbabwe’s capital.

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.

The dead gutter babies are the most pitiful victims of a government that believes it can starve its people into compliance, or death, turning Zimbabwe into the only country in the region with a shrinking population.

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