Chingwizi women using tree leaves as sanitary towels

CHINGWIZI - Desperate women living at Chingwizi holding camp have resorted to using tree leaves in place of sanitary towels as donor fatigue hits the transit camp, it has been learnt.

The women were brought to Chingwizi transit camp because their homes were washed away by floods in the Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam flood basin. There are thousands of flood victims here.

The women have in the past relied on donations  from organisations that have since scaled down, leaving them in a dire situation.

Women who spoke to the Daily News said the living conditions were getting worse.

“The situation here is getting tougher by the day and it’s now different from the days we first came here,” said Mirirai Magomo.

“We used to receive enough rations of food and other goodies but now we are starving. We also used to receive sanitary wear donated by some organisations but now it’s a thing of the past.

“Takutoenda mudondo kunotora makavi nemashizha kana mazuva edu asvika (We now visit the bush to get tree leaves and barks to use as sanitary pads during our menstrual cycle).”

This means, the normal biological process has not only turned out to be a huge burden but also another contributor to their anguish since they lack quality and affordable products to help them cope with the situation.

Most of the women in the camp said they could not  afford sanitary towels, which are expensive — usually retailing above $1 in local shops. This is more than many families live on, daily.

Limited access to safe, affordable, convenient and culturally-appropriate methods dealing with menstruation have far-reaching implications on the rights and physical, social and mental well-being of many women and adolescent girls in the camp.

The women said they often feel embarrassed due to teasing over stained clothes and hygiene, and also the discomfort that affects their self-esteem.

They said they were forced to use leaky materials, leaves, rags and even newspapers, which are not only unhygienic but also detrimental to their health. The materials they use at times result in bodily odour.

The women added that the scaling down of donations had hit them hard and government was failing to come to their rescue at a time they are crammed in the camp without any means of generating income.

Civic organisations commiserated with their plight, but blamed corruption and looting of donations by officials as the reason disheartening most donors, causing them to scale down aid.

Coalition Against Corruption (Cac), director, Terry Mutsvangwa, said government should move in and stop corruption to retain donor confidence and get help for the Chingwizi women.

“Cac feels that donors have made several inroads in as much as donating useful items including sanitary pads to the distressed women at Chingwizi,” Mutsvangwa said.

“The problem is that, looting of donations has gone unchecked at the camp and remember we once unearthed the sex-for-food scandal.

“The government should speed up efforts to resettle the victims and again donors should not lose heart in assisting the desperate victims.”

Masvingo minister of State Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, said there were enough supplies but the beneficiaries were the ones abusing the sanitary towels.

“We had enough supplies and  I think we still have them but, you see people might end up abusing them and  if reports are saying some are selling them, then they are the ones abusing the supplies  not government officials,” Bhasikiti said.

However, civic organisations and women in the camp maintain that sanitary wear supplies ran out due to looting by government officials.

Zivani Muzorodzi, programmes manager for Community Tolerance and Reconciliation Development (Cotrad), said government should be held accountable for the looting.

“It’s so disturbing that women are now forced to live like animals,” Muzorodzi said.

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