There are only about 20,000 British citizens now living in Zimbabwe out of what was once approaching 300,000. We are very concerned for those who are economically stranded there with no funds to jump on a flight to the United Kingdom.
We remain especially concerned for those who supported the U.K. during the Second World War and who are now in their late 70's and 80's, many of whom were encouraged to settle in Rhodesia by the British Government in 1945.
A number of elderly people are now in old age homes, institutions which are desperately struggling to cope financially. The plight of these good people is not improving.
FIVE MILLION FACE STARVATION IN ZIMBABWE
Children's malnutrition wards in hospitals are full. Tiny patients, their bodies swollen with oedema, lie deathly still. A common sight is an oversized head and sparse hair, characteristics of
kwashiorkor, a type of malnutrition which usually affects very young children. One doctor has reported kwashiorkor in an eight-year-old boy in his ward. "That is highly unusual, it's mostly confined to two and three-year-olds. That's an indication of how serious the hunger is," he said.
One doctor in a mission hospital in Nyanga district, endeavoring to treat children with kwashiorkor, explained that the hospitals lack lifesaving protein supplements and so they were forced to use diluted milk.
The children were supposed to get six feeds a day but they had enough for one day and then nothing for the next five days.
In a hopeless situation, the doctors are sometimes forced to turn away starving children. As one doctor said: "In hospital we cannot feed them.
At least at home they can scrounge for things. We only keep those that we can see won't make it at home. We have lost the battle before we have fought it"
In another case a mother died in childbirth leaving a baby born HIV-positive. The grandmother refused to take the infant home as she could not feed it—and so the baby was left at the hospital. In despair the doctor said:"It's starvation all over, starving, starving, starving."
We have again received a graphic report from a priest living in Zimbabwe.
"We had a 're-valuation' exercise last month, which cut 10 naughts off the value of the currency. This means that a note that has a face value of Z$100 billion is now worth Z$10.
It really requires mental gymnastics to work out what you must pay for anything as both the old and the new notes are still circulating. At the moment the Reserve Bank is limiting cash withdrawals to Z$1,000 per person per day. The queues at the banks are extremely long. If you want to pay by cheque, or by electronic transfer, many places will charge you at least twice as much as payment by cash. (Some shops are secretly demanding payment in foreign currency such as US dollars, or South African Rand's).
"People in many of the rural areas are really suffering greatly. In the Masvingo area a cow is being exchanged for two bags of maize (100kg). That is a real sign of starvation. In normal times it would be at least 10 bags. In some areas people are surviving on wild fruits, and some of these are poisonous if not boiled before eating.
"The rains are due to start in about a month or six weeks time. but there is no maize seed or fertilizer in the shops. A maize-grower produced 'seed maize' last season. His crop had been tested by the Seed Company and was of good quality but there was a pricing argument going on between the government and the Seed Company. The result was that the Seed Company could not pay him for his crop and they had advised him to 'keep it somewhere safe'. So he had resorted to storing it in the lounge of his home!
"The power sharing agreement, which was signed on 15th September, certainly gives us some hope for a way out of our problems, but it is a matter of concern that almost four weeks later there has still been no agreement on the composition of the cabinet. It would appear that there is no sense of urgency and of the need to get a resolution of the crisis. We need seed and fertilizer.
"Our water supply is cut off every evening and you never know when it will come back. Some days it is 8 am or 12 noon or even later. We keep water in every possible container. In Harare things are far worse. The story is that there is not enough money to pay for water treatment chemicals to be transported from one side of Harare to the other! I have been hearing of cases of cholera in Chitungwisa because of the very poor sewerage system and lack of adequate water supply."
NO EDUCATION FOR 4.5 MILLION PUPILS
Since January 2008, there has been a total of only 23 days uninterrupted education for 4.5 million pupils in Zimbabwe.
Now, the government has cancelled the academic year completely. The Secretary-General of the Progressive Teacher's Union of Zimbabwe has said that since the pupils were unprepared 'it would be criminal if the government allows examinations to go ahead.'
Teachers were on strike in January over salaries and in April they were accused by Robert Mugabe's ZANU (PF) party of supporting the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) during the elections in March. ZANU (PF) blamed them for Robert Mugabe's first-round defeat.
Six teachers were murdered and thousands brutally attacked by ZANU (PF) militia—the violence marring the second-round presidential election in June. Schools were ransacked and used as torture centres. Teachers disappeared and many are still too afraid to return. The final blow to education is hyperinflation. Teachers have now had their salaries doubled to roughly £5.70—not enough to cover bus fares and food for four days.
In a government boys' high school in Harare they are sawing up benches for wood for O-level woodwork exams, even though no-one knows when they will happen. The headmaster said: "The pupils go home next week to study for their 0 and A-level finals. But there is no timetable and we do not have their June results."
City schools have been handicapped by water and power cuts. One primary school has had no water for five years. A girls' school in Harare is searching for an axe to cut down trees for firewood to cook food. Providing school food is a big struggle. Boarders at hundreds of rural schools have been sent home because there was no food for them.
Zimbabwe's four leading universities failed to open and at the University of Zimbabwe, the leading tertiary institution, a notice tells students that lectures will begin `on a date to be advised'. The Vice-Chancellor, said that the university had no water, no electricity and no funds.
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." Romans 8:24-25
Rev. Fr. Arthur Lewis
The Rhodesia Christian Group
P 0 Box 5307
Hertfordshire CM23 3DZ