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Chingwizi girls cry for help

Opinion & Analysis
There seems to be lack of urgency in resolving the crisis at Chingwizi holding camp where thousands of families displaced by flooding

There seems to be lack of urgency in resolving the crisis at Chingwizi holding camp where thousands of families displaced by the flooding in the Tokwe-Mukosi basin live in sub-human conditions.

NewsDay Editorial

Reports abound of how whole families that include parents and children of varying ages share a single small tent. Not only is this crowding unhealthy in terms of sanitation, but it also is morally reprehensible that teenage children share the same “bedroom” with their parents.

When children begin to witness such private matters as the intimacy their parents have, not only does their respect for their parents diminish, but it also encourages the children to emulate them.

Recent reports indicate that moral decay has already spread in the camp with 100 teenage girls falling pregnant and dropping out of school. Cases of sexually transmitted diseases have also risen to alarming levels.

It must be clear to anyone who cares that government is to blame for the disaster that has befallen these people. Government failed to properly plan their relocation from their former homes.

They should have been resettled in proper homesteads as a matter of urgency. It is sad that government still has to pay the victims compensation for their destroyed homes.

The money would have helped the them start new lives by building proper shelter and clearing fields for the next planting season. It would also have kept their children in school, thereby keeping them out of mischief.

Among other things the lack of money has left the families in the clutch of abject poverty. And, poverty comes with huge attendant problems, the most painful of which is what it does to the girl child. Reports last week said hundreds of girls, some as young as 10, have fallen pregnant at the hands of predatory men who lure them for sex using food.

In many cases parents, humiliated by constantly queuing for meagre food hand-outs, have resorted to marrying off their young daughters. Although this practice is illegal, and the parents know it, it is very difficult to stop because no one has the courage and resolve to report cases to the police.

The children of Chingwizi are already a lost generation. Without a decent education and, accustomed to worldly pleasures, it will be almost impossible to rehabilitate them into normal life. The danger is that moral decadence will continue as more and more children get into puberty. This makes the call for immediate intervention even more urgent.

The disaster now calls for strong leadership. The political leadership in the province has proved weak. At national level too, we have heard how the money meant for compensation has been diverted by the Finance ministry to pay civil servants salaries. This means the people in the holding camp have been sacrificed on the altar of expediency.

President Robert Mugabe, who has chosen not to visit the camp, must now rise to the occasion and see to it that something is done about the situation.

His wife Grace, who has now taken the plunge into politics, should also show that she is a national leader. While her efforts in Mazowe are now world renowned, she should show a national ethos by going in to help, at least the girls of Chingwizi.