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SOS Social Centres in Zimbabwe are carrying out difficult tasks
July 20, 2005
Murambatsvina" carried out in Zimbabwe hit the poorest in the
society. Also many children and families who are being assisted
by the SOS Social Centres in Bulawayo, Waterfalls near Harare and
Bindura have lost the source of their livelihoods.
At the end of
May, a "cleaning-up campaign" by the government, called
"Operation Murambatsvina", was initiated in the poorest
districts of the cities Bulawayo, Harare and Bindura. In Shona it
means doing away with the rubbish or creating order. In the process
of this campaign, which is intended to bring about more safety,
hygienic conditions and to take action against illegal settlement
and illegal trade, an army of some 200,000 homeless and dispossessed
persons was brought about.
include first and foremost families who kept their heads above water
with micro-enterprises and who could not afford to live in anything
other than shanties, as their income was so small. The severe economic
crisis in Zimbabwe and the lack of social security result in the
informal sector being the only possibility for the majority of the
people living in the urban areas to make a living (unemployment
in the formal sector amounts to almost 80%) and the slum settlements
grow steadily. Without warning, whole quarters were destroyed or
burnt down; stalls and mini-shops which provided various goods to
cover daily needs at affordable prices were seized, plundered and
carried out by the SOS Social Centres in Bulawayo, Waterfalls near
Harare and Bindura concentrated on exactly the areas which were
afflicted by "Murambatsvina". SOS Children's Village employees
have been trying for years to support disadvantaged families through
various social programmes in order to assist them in securing their
own livelihoods independently. It is especially the children, whose
families have broken up due to HIV/AIDS, who are barely capable
of surviving economically and socially, and who can only make a
living with the help of their extended families or who must run
their households on their own.
The SOS Social
Centres help on the one hand through the carrying out of short-term
support measures (provision of supplementary monthly food packages,
paying of school fees, and supplying them with school uniforms),
and on the other hand, the employees of the centres see it as their
most important task to set up a social network, together with the
local authorities and the community, for the needy, and especially
for the orphaned and abandoned children, in order to strengthen
the collective responsibility.
the SOS Social Centres have (in cooperation with ILO) provided numerous
families with the know-how needed in order to improve their financial
situation with micro-enterprises. With time the work paid off; the
type of support being provided could be adapted or re-directed as
more and more families became independent.
see the progress of their social work being thrown back many years
by "Murambatsvina" and they fear for the future of the
children and families that they took care of for so long. "The
SOS Social Centres now face a task that they cannot come to terms
with. The community members, who are important partners in our work
for the children, are now in a state of shock and have become weak",
stated an SOS employee about the present situation.
are greatly affected, especially the ones we care for, since they
were already among the weakest. Many of these children will now
move to places where we cannot reach them, which means we have lost
them. They will no longer go to school, and are being up-rooted
though they are already in a situation where having stability and
a familiar environment would be so important."
The staff of
the SOS Social Centres is very conscious of the fact that the living
conditions in the destroyed quarters were very poor, but what was
allegedly to be "solved" by these drastic measures was
radically worsened: "We have always noted with great concern
the overcrowding situation of people, they have no sanitary facilities
at all. It is well known that families of up to ten members live
together in a small hut. This is not only a health problem, but
is also a great risk, for example in the case of a fire and also
due to the possibility of sexual assaults on children. Nevertheless,
the shanties gave these people a home. The destruction brought about
fear and depression."
such as the Red Cross and church institutions have set up tents
in order to provide those who are forced to move to other places
with provisional accommodation. Many will have to move back to the
country, which they had left in search for work in the cities in
the first place. The SOS Social Centres only have limited possibilities
to offer emergency relief, but they are for example trying to rent
accommodation for homeless children in Glen Norah.
Also SOS employees
themselves were directly or indirectly affected by "Murambatsvina".
Some of their houses were partly demolished; others had to accommodate
friends and relatives who had lost their homes. Rents have generally
continue with our work, we will give the children in the SOS Children's
Villages and in the surrounding communities hope," stated a
there are three SOS Children's Villages in Zimbabwe, as well as
three SOS Youth Facilities, three SOS Kindergartens, five SOS Hermann
Gmeiner Schools, two Vocational Training Centres and three SOS Social
Centres. The child care organisation has been active in the country
since 1980. Non of the SOS facilities was directly affected by the
Visit the SOS
Zimbabwe fact sheet
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