Help save lives at risk
The outbreak of cholera which started in Zimbabwe in August 2008 has since spread to neighboring countries, namely Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. The outbreak in South Africa is directly linked to the broader humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe and forms only one aspect of the crisis. Many Zimbabwean nationals seek asylum in South Africa and this movement of people has helped spread the cholera across the border.
The situation is exacerbated by the clandestine movement of illegal immigrants into South Africa and the inadequate water and sanitation facilities and poor hygiene at the “show ground”, a temporary processing centre (open space) established by South African authorities to review the cases of asylum seekers. Children form part of the increasing number of migrant flows and this is an important concern to UNICEF. Hundreds of Zimbabweans including men, spend days and nights on end at the show ground under very poor conditions waiting to have their cases reviewed. There are no adequate measures in place for the protection of women and children against abuse and exploitation.
While the cholera outbreak has caught world attention, there is a wider humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region. Children form part of the increasing number of migrant flows into South Africa. A recent study commissioned jointly by Save the Children Alliance, International Rescue Committee and UNICEF found that children arrive from Zimbabwe in South Africa where they have no shelter, where language is a barrier to their integration and schooling and where, without legal status in the country, their access to basic social services are very limited. They are also exposed to abuse and exploitation and are under constant threat of being arrested and deported. Many children reported having been physically abused, including sexual abuse while crossing the border. Ninety two percent (92%) of the unaccompanied children interviewed in Musina as part of the study live on the streets or in dangerous places such as taxi ranks, bushes and at the border between Musina and Beit Bridge, with all the consequences these places imply for their physical and psychological well being. There are many unaccompanied children, especially girls working in the farming areas. They are exposed to harassment, sexual exploitation, rape and illnesses. The study also found considerable number of single young mothers with babies, with insufficient access to food for themselves and their children.
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