HARARE, 11 November 2009 (PlusNews) - Tendai Javangwe (not his
real name) is 16 years old but looks half his age; he was born
HIV-positive and has been staying at a home run by Mashambanzou
Care Trust, a community care and support organisation.
He had been living with his aunt since his parents died, but
illness forced him to drop out of school and seek medical
treatment at Mashambanzou - meaning "the dawn of a new day/life"
in Shona - in Waterfalls, a residential area southwest of the
When Javangwe was admitted the staff were shocked that his
relatives had allowed his condition to deteriorate to such an
extent. "He was thin and seriously ill. His relatives ... just
kept him at home without realizing he needed help," Chipo
Munyorovi, the sister in charge of Mashambanzou, told
Javangwe is now well enough to go home but officials have
classified him as a child in need of state protection after the
neglect he was subjected to at home, and have said he should be
placed in an orphanage or home, which has magnified his problems.
Zimbabwe has almost a million orphans, but the country's
political and economic meltdown means the extended family is
often too poor to cope with additional children.
High levels of stigma and discrimination prevent many
HIV-positive children from being adopted or being adequately
cared for by relatives, so caregivers find it hard to place those
who have been abandoned in homes or orphanages.
A recent report by a local child rights organization, Streets
Ahead, said at least 52 percent of children living and working on
the streets of Harare and its satellite towns had lost one or
both parents to AIDS-related illnesses. Most did not live on the
streets permanently, but came occasionally to supplement meagre
family incomes, begging to raise money for school fees and food.
"Individuals don't want to adopt them into their families, they
want healthy children. Even the established orphanages tell us
they have no space for the children ... This is why these
children end up stuck with us," said Munyorovi.
But Mashambanzou's finances were stretched and the staff
struggled to cope with the large numbers of children, who often
stayed for a long period of time because they had nowhere else to
Paurina Mpariwa-Gwanyanya, Zimbabwe's Minister of Labour and
Social welfare, attributed these problems to the collapse of
social services after years of neglect and underfunding by the
previous administration, and told a recent media workshop that
the unity government was working hard to restore social services
to protect orphans and vulnerable children.
New government estimates put the number of HIV-positive children
in Zimbabwe at more than 105,000, of which only about 13,000 were
on treatment. Javangwe may be one of the few lucky ones on
antiretroviral drugs, but without a stable home he may not get
the support he needs to make his treatment work.