As food prices continue to escalate in Zimbabwe, the number of children suffering from severe malnutrition has increased in suburbs around the capital, Harare, according to aid workers. But they do not rule out that the spike could be linked to HIV/AIDS, in a country with one of the worst prevalence rates in the world.
New Hope Zimbabwe (NHZ), a local NGO providing community assistance, said it recorded 500 cases of severe malnutrition every week in Epworth, one of the capital's poorest suburbs.
"Epworth has the worst cases in Zimbabwe, as most of the poor live in that area. It was also the worst hit by Operation Murambatsvina ['Drive out Filth']. Most of the people's livelihoods were destroyed - people are now out of work and their small businesses are now deemed illegal, and most parents are dying from HIV/AIDS," said Pastor Elfas Zadzagomo, NHZ executive director.
The Zimbabwean government said the operation was aimed at clearing slums and flushing out criminals, but left more than 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood in the winter of 2005.
National malnutrition statistics are hard to access in Zimbabwe. But according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), there is a strong association between severe malnutrition and HIV/AIDS; around 70 percent of children admitted to hospital for severe malnutrition in Zimbabwe are also HIV positive.
Life is tough for an HIV-positive baby in Zimbabwe's poor suburbs, and often short: parents do not have enough food; hospitals do not have a reliable supply of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. With inflation at 913 percent, people are being squeezed by steeply rising prices for everyday essentials and shortages of medication, including the ARVs that help keep AIDS at bay....