Back to Index
ZIMBABWE: Villagers respond to AIDS orphans crisis
September 05, 2005
BEITBRIDGE - Five
years ago, the residents of Majini village, about 90 km from the southern
border town of Beitbridge, Zimbabwe, were reluctant to talk about HIV/AIDS
- now they are planning a vegetable garden to support AIDS orphans and
other families affected by the disease.
"The growing number of AIDS orphans in the area made the villagers sit
up and look for solutions," said Reverend Musa Makulubane at the local
church, which has been proactive in trying to get residents to adopt a
more responsive stance to HIV/AIDS.
In a village with a population of just over 5,000 there are about 50 AIDS
orphans that the local clinic is aware of, said Tiwejuliet Mpofu, a nurse
who helps run the HIV/AIDS unit. But according to villagers, the number
of children affected by the disease runs into at least a thousand.
"You can see it in the school and the churches - there are many, many
children living by themselves. Some of them have old grandparents, but
many are by themselves," said Cynthia Gwamure, a resident who helps families
affected by HIV/AIDS.
"Every week we bury someone we know - the disease is clearly among us,"
said Peter Sithole, whose friend died of an AIDS-related illness last
Another villager, Joyce Ndou, commented, "Things changed when all of us
realised all us of knew someone who had the illness."
Zimbabwe has the world's fourth highest rate of HIV infection, and the
UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that a child dies of an AIDS-related
illness every 15 minutes.
The church, supported by the Lutheran Mission, has been training volunteer
home-based caregivers in the village and also tries to raise funds to
provide food, clothing and other support to families made vulnerable by
"The villagers are poor themselves, but they try to help however they
can. They always want to know about new ways to help families living with
HIV/AIDS. We make collections at the church every week - it is not a lot,
but people will still give," said Makulubane. Most of the residents in
arid Majini are small-scale ranchers, while a few are employed on commercial
farms in the neighbourhood.
Most households have a kitchen garden, which ensures that people have
access to well-balanced meals, and the villagers had planned a larger
garden to support at least 100 families in the area. "We have the land
- we have even got a pump to draw the water out of a borehole because
there is no water, but we cannot afford fuel," explained Makulubane.
The only river near the village has dried up, so people have to rely on
taps or boreholes for water.
Zimbabwe is going through a severe economic crisis with serious fuel and
food shortages due to recurring droughts and the government's fast-track
land redistribution programme, which have disrupted agricultural production
and slashed export earnings.
Comfort, 14, lost his parents about three years ago, after they had been
ill for a long time. His grandmother now looks after him and his two siblings,
and earns a living from her few chickens and selling vegetables from her
garden when she can.
"Now they don't let her sell anymore," said Comfort, referring to the
Zimbabwean government's clampdown on informal trade - part of a national
cleanup campaign that began on 19 May. Since then she has tried to sell
vegetables or fruits to passers-by on the highway - some 10 km from their
"The villagers try to help us," he added, acknowledging their support.
Because most people in the area are ranchers, their homes are far apart,
which often proves problematic for home-based caregivers. "At times it
takes us days to hear [that someone needs assistance]. We wish we had
a vehicle, but then, maybe not," said Makulubane, remembering that although
he has a motorcycle, the costs of keeping it operational are prohibitive.
Instead, the villagers make do with donkey carts and lifts from passers-by
to access more remote households.
Majini has seen "tremendous change," in the past few years, said a relief
worker with a local NGO working in the Beitbridge district in Matabeleland
"Their attitude towards HIV/AIDS is exceptional in the area. They always
want more information on the illness; about programmes they can get involved
in. Unfortunately most of the villagers do not have access to free antiretroviral
therapy. There is little we can do there."
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.