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  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • Clean-up endangers PLWA's
    Bertha Shoko, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
    June 19, 2005

    THERE is no doubt that "Operation Murambatsvina", also now being derisively referred to as Tsunami - after the devastation that occurred last year in parts of South East Asia - has caused untold suffering to many Zimbabweans.

    Many people have been left homeless after their houses and cottages, condemned as "illegal" by the government, were destroyed. Informal traders such as furniture manufacturers, flea market traders and street vendors have also been left without sources of income after they were caught in the web of the operation.

    The clean-up operation last week spread to rural areas and small towns such as Bindura, Murehwa and Seke leaving thousands more displaced and the devastation is serious.

    Sporadic checks made by StandardHealth during the past few weeks have revealed a serious humanitarian crisis because many of the displaced families have turned destitute and are spending nights in the open where they are exposed to the cold with no access to proper sanitation, medical care and health facilities.

    At Caledonia farm, where displaced families in Harare were dumped to await relocation by the government, conditions are overcrowded and health experts say there is an urgent need for a clinic.

    In rural Bindura town, home to the country's first woman Vice President, Joice Mujuru, displaced gold panners and their families have spent the last two weeks - living like wild animals in the open with their newly born babies and school-going children. There is need for urgent help for this mining community in Bindura's Kitsiyatota area where a disease outbreak is looming.

    From an HIV and AIDS perspective, the situation at hand is grave. The effects of the operation on People Living With HIV and AIDS (PLWAs) and affected families is immeasurable.

    Being far removed from health facilities and living in the open with no access to proper sanitation has left many of the PLWAs prone to disease, with no access to medical care when they need it. While it is strongly recommended that PLWAs seek treatment quickly for any opportunistic infections, the prevailing situation has made this almost impossible.

    It is feared many of the indigent PLWA's who have been displaced lack the resources to relocate or seek alternative accommodation. This, invariably leads to more stress and anxiety, a state of mind which could quicken progression from HIV to AIDS.

    The loss of income for the informal sector, particularly vendors and flea market traders, will no doubt increase women and girls' vulnerability to HIV infection as some will be forced to resort to commercial sex to earn a living.

    Human rights organisations are convinced that the government has created a humanitarian crisis by forcing thousands out of accommodation and not offering them an alternative.

    The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) has said it "deplores in the strongest possible terms" the ongoing operation that has left many families displaced.

    "This brutal action by the government of Zimbabwe has precipitated a humanitarian crisis against a background of severe food shortages and 70% unemployment levels ... of particular concern to ZADHR is the impact that this campaign is having on children and families infected or affected by AIDS...," said ZADHR.

    "This operation by the government of Zimbabwe is a clear violation of international conventions including the International Conventions on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, to all of which Zimbabwe is a signatory…"

    The effects of this operation, certainly has far reaching consequences and is not good news for any HIV and AIDS activist. Human rights organisations and those involved in Aids work should not only condemn this operation but also move in to help and assist affected families throughout the country as a matter of emergency.

    Failure to do so will be a great crime to humanity and a loss to all the efforts and great strides that have been made on the AIDS front these past two decades.

    This is an urgent Save Our Souls (SOS) message for the donor community. For feedback and question email

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