March 19, 2008

Poverty and disease kill little Suradzai Gumbo, Zimbawe

Sarudzai Gumbo

Sarudzai Gumbo was a victim of Robert Mugabe's evil regime almost from the day she was born. Her courage in the face of her appalling suffering and disfigurement moved thousands of readers of The Times. And now she is dead - at the age of 7 - a young girl who never stood a chance. Another example of how superglobalization, the corporatocracy and the JACKALS at work.

We are attempting to give a face to the VICTIMS of these inhumane policies ..

Now, from the Times ..

Richard Mills, the Times photographer, and I first met Sarudzai in a church in Mbare, a slum in southern Harare, last March. Her mother pushed her forward and pulled off her dirty woollen hat.

We gasped. Sarudzai's head was covered in festering red sores. Pus oozed from her eyes. A growth on her tongue made speaking difficult.

Her tearful mother, Silibaziso, said that she had never been to school, other children refused to play with her, and she could not sleep for pain.

Her parents told us how President Mugabe had destroyed their house in 2005 when he razed slums in Operation Murambatsvina (“Clean Up Trash”), and then destroyed their jobs by banning street vendors.

Both parents had Aids. They were living with their five children in a tiny shack built on wasteland from plastic sheeting and corrugated iron. They could give Sarudzai barely a bowl of sadza - maize-meal porridge - a day. They had been turned away by hospitals for lack of money.

After Sarudzai's story appeared in The Times, readers called to offer help, and donated £7,500. Sarudzai was sent to an Aids clinic, but last April her mother died and her father took her away to the ancestral village, fatally interrupting her treatment.

Sarudzai was transferred later to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare just as Zimbabwe's healthcare system was imploding. That was where we found her when we returned to the country last November. She was lying alone and neglected in a dirty side room. Her head was a mass of septic lesions. Two large cancers were devouring the right side of her face. She had lost the sight in one eye. A filthy hat concealed untold horrors on her scalp - and the stench of putrefying flesh was overwhelming.

The hospital had run out of medicines and its doctors and nurses had left in droves for better-paid jobs abroad. It had become a place where patients were left to die. We moved Sarudzai to a private hospital. Tracey and Anne, two church workers from Mbare, volunteered to visit her daily.

A Harare paediatrician - one of the few left - agreed to treat her free of charge. Kidzcan, a charity that helps Zimbabwean children with cancer, adopted her.

For the first time in her life Sarudzai was clean, cared for and eating proper food. We left her playing with two new teddy bears that she had named Rudzai and Rudo - Shona for “praise” and “love” - and returned to Britain knowing she was in good hands.

Sadly Sarudzai's cancer was too advanced, Harare's one radiotherapy machine worked spasmodically, and there was no hard currency to repair it. She died early yesterday.

Sarudzai was a sweet, brave and affectionate girl who won the hearts of all who met her. She seldom cried or complained. She smiled at visitors, and waved when they left. Her personality shone through her disfigurement.

She was also an apt symbol for a country that has suffered so much under Mr Mugabe, a country whose beauty has been corrupted by his evil.

There were tears shed for Sarudzai yesterday, but there will be few shed for Mr Mugabe if her death is followed by the end of his pernicious rule in this month's presidential election.

A dying nation

13m Population of Zimbabwe

35 years Life expectancy for Zimbabweans at birth

2.2m Number estimated to be living with Aids

1.3m Zimbabweans aged under 17 thought to be living with Aids

$47 Annual government health spending per person

Source: UNAids

I have just read the article about Sarudzai Gumbo, and all that I can say is that this child and her parents have gone to a better place, I hope that President Mugabe is satisfied. Rest in Peace, Sarudzai.

Samuel, London,

Sleep tight, little one.

Heather, Glasgow,

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