Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The silent cries of the little ones

Of all the millions of Zimbabweans who have fallen victim to ZANU PF mis-rule the malnourished children under the age of five must surely rank as the most pathetic. They cry from hunger and deprivation, and the cries rend the hearts of their mothers, or if already orphaned, the hearts of their stand-in mothers, who have little or no food to give them. But because they are the most vulnerable group of all and have no means of collectively giving voice to the deep anguish they feel, their individual cries go unheard by those who could make a difference - the ruling politicians and their apparatchiks.
Be silent Zimbabweans, and listen - with care !
Can you not hear the cries of the little ones
condemned by your inhumanity to die of starvation,
or, at the least, never to reach their God-given potential -
rather to live stunted half-lives ?
Can you not hear the cries of the little ones -
for mercy ?
Not to mention justice.

One group of professionals who are alert to the tragedy is the country's paediatricians and health care workers who have the daily task of tending the severely malnourished and often dying little ones. At a recent workshop in Harare organized by Doctors for Human Rights a number of papers were presented by practitioners who are deeply troubled by current trends resulting from the crisis levels of poverty and food deprivation and the regime's refusal to engage seriously with the issue. One paper was entitled "Severe child malnutrition: an unnecessary and avoidable crisis".

The problem is not a new one, but it is growing. A study carried out at a Harare hospital in 2003-4 showed that 55 per cent of children admitted then were suffering from malnutrition. Since that time the regime has significantly reduced the amount of feeding the international community is permitted to do through the World Food Programme and its local agencies, and in May 2005 it embarked on the notorious Operation Murambatsvina, dubbed "a catastrophic injustice ... to Zimbabwe's poorest citizens" by none other than Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations. At the same time, as agricultural production within the country has plummeted to all-time lows, the regime has failed conspicuously to import anything like the quantity of maize required to compensate for the deficit and feed the population. The result has been a predictable intensification of the suffering, especially of vulnerable groups like the under-fives....

read it and weep...

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