Poverty stinks in Chitungwiza

HARARE - Garbage spreads to as far as the eye can see. And a man in rags competes with a scrawny dog rummaging for anything from food to goods.

It might be hell but it is reality for this man from Chitungwiza and hundreds others who descend on this dumpsite in the hope that they will coax a living.

Crows crow and the air is putrid. Just like the mountain of rubbish — poverty stinks here and is written on the wizened faces of this man who wears neither gloves nor a mask to filter the pungent.

He grumbles about something when asked about his name and he is reluctant to reveal it, maybe because of shame.

A few kilometres from the garbage site are industries that no longer emit smoke for they are now dead—suffering the same fate that has blighted Zimbabwe since the turn of the millennium.

In a country of over 14 million people only 10 percent are employed and the rest, like the old man, have to hustle and tussle even with stray dogs to earn a living, its hard he said.

“I live in St Mary’s and come here to look for anything for resale, it is not a pleasant job and I do not earn much but this is what is available for me,” said the old man.

To the east of the dumpsite lies a cemetery and of course hundreds of people quite dead. Here tall grass covers the moulds of earth abandoned by the cash strapped council that is failing to provide water and even collect garbage.

“These days we may even go for some days without getting fresh garbage so the things that we collect are few and what is worse, people are no longer disposing their garbage as they used to do, so it is nearly impossible to retrieve any valuables.

“My son was buried there” he said pointing to the sprawling graveyard that is now encroached by urban settlers.

Life for ordinary persons in Chitungwiza, a satellite town of over a million residents is becoming unbearable by the day as the majority have fallen through the cracks and are living on less than a dollar a day.

A recent survey by Unicef and ZimStats makes the startling revelations that as many as 65 percent of township folk live on less than a dollar a day, Chitungwiza being no exception as hundreds are now living as vendors selling things collected from dumpsites or any repackaged foot-stuffs.

Known as katsaona repackaged small quantities of mealie meal, cooking oil, sugar, rice and any other groceries are rather popular in this populous town.

It is a common site to come across chicken intestines on open display and for sale, with women bee-lining to make a buy, the buzzing flies seemingly not a spot of bother.

In a country with an unemployment rate of over 90 percent, according to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, vulnerable groups such as women, children and the aging have been hardest hit by poverty, the scourge that has since transcended into the country’s cities according to Zimbabwe Poverty Atlas 2015 (Atlas).

The 2015, Atlas map which was released early this year is a research carried out by Zimstat, World Bank and the United Nation’s Children Fund (Unicef).

It identified the urban community of Epworth as the urban area experiencing high levels of poverty with a poverty prevalence rate of 64, 5 percent.

“Epworth has some of Harare Province’s poorest households,” the research states.

The town which grew from a squatter camp into a formal local board has an estimate population of 166 077.

According to the research out of 46 012 households where 3,6 people make up a household, 29 862 are poor.

“Poverty in Zimbabwe is mainly a rural phenomenon. The Atlas shows that in some parts of Zimbabwe, urban poverty in notably high. Epworth had a poverty prevalence of 64, 5 percent. The ward that had the highest poverty prevalence was ward 05 with 66, 6 percent while ward 04 had the lowest poverty prevalence pegged at 62, 5 percent.”

With groups such as the American backed Famine Early Warning System Network (FewsNet) warning of worsening standards of living as Zimbabweans continue to suffer from the effects of the El Nino induced drought and macro-economic challenges—the future for the urban dweller is daunting.

A research carried out by Unicef in 2013 also noted that poverty has creeped into urban settlements  with levels increasing at a faster rate than in rural areas.

“Unlike rural households, urban households almost always require cash to access social services such as health and education and hence greater need for households to have secure and consistent income to meet these costs,” the report noted.

“The urban dwellers usually face costly accommodation rentals, out-of-pocket payments for health, education, water and power supplies. Urban areas are highly associated with high levels of social fragmentation resulting in declining social cohesion and increased social exclusion especially for the poor women and children”.

But what makes the future bleak for poverty weary Zimbabweans is that the leadership seem not to care.

Presenting his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Tuesday, President Robert Mugabe skipped fundamental issues like health, education and poverty.

Comments (1)

We get a govt we deserve. Elsewhere in the world clueless geriatrics have been turfed alongside Windows Dos. Here we even vote for them! Why complain now?

Moe Syslack - 12 December 2016

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