“Young kids are exposed to sex at a very young age as they share a room with their parents and they watch everything….”
The chatter of kids playing, punctuated by the strong stench of sewage water flowing through the streets repulsively embraced us as we made our way into one of Zimbabwe’s oldest high density suburb of Rimuka in the Single Quarters (SQ) and the General Barracks (GB).
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Kadoma
A right turn from the main road into the SQ and GB areas under Ward 2 high density area leads one through a semi tarred/gravel road through visibly collapsing houses. A sign post inscribed, “Ward 2 Has Been Almost Certified As Open Defecation Free” almost implying that council has made strides towards improving water, sanitation and hygiene standards of residents in the area.
However, reality on the ground speaks otherwise as the living conditions under which residents of the SQs and GBs leave under have deteriorated beyond redemption and could spiral into an uncontrollable health time bomb.
Residents in the area are exposed to threats of waterborne and archaic diseases such as Cholera and Typhoid, Tuberculosis and young girls due to their vulnerability are also weak prey for gold panners and the risk of HIV is high. Child sexual abuse, through exposure to live adult sex scenes due to the absence of better accomodation also stands as a great threat to the future of young people in the area
A tour done by the HealthTimes in the area shows that a single room houses not less than seven occupants, and at times children are exposed to the unthinkable as they have to contend with watching their parents copulating due to limited accommodation options.
“I started staying here long back during the Rhodesia times, this area where we are right now is called the Single Quarters, and this means the only people who were allowed to stay here were single bachelors. It was not allowed then by the then Rhodesian government to harbour a woman in the area.
“The area would accommodate those who would come looking for work in companies such as David Whitehead, Grain Marketing Board (GMB), Scortford. But now the houses are no longer serving their purpose due to poverty and economic meltdown. We are being forced procreate while living here with a single room accommodating seven people. The kids’ end up sleeping under the beds while I sleep on the bed with my wife.
“Mothers and fathers cannot be intimate freely as their children are in the same room. This has led to some men beating up their wives for withholding conjugal rights. So it is not surprising for these kids to say some unsayable words in public because they are being exposed to sex at very young age because there is no decent and free accommodation,” said Sekuru Peter (SQs) Dandure a resident of the SQ.
The dilapidated ablution facilities in the area also poses a threat to the residents owing to recurring risks of Cholera with latest having been reported in Kadoma’s neighbouring town of Chegutu.
“We would say as from 1980, the SQs and GBs have been the most betrayed. Nothing has been done to improve our livelihoods here. These toilets you see here are filthy, more than 100 people get in there every single day. We once had a cholera outbreak here in 2008 and so many people died.
“We want government to at least demolish these houses and get us better alternative accommodation. But there seems to be no movement in that area,” added Sekuru Dandure.
Tatenda Chikwamba (22) who stays with here in the SQs says the situation is so dire is so dire as they have to share bathing rooms with elderly women something which makes young girls uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, residents in the area are up in arms against council for failing to relocate them despite the fact that a piece of land has already been identified for such a program. Councillor for Ward 2, Michael Gore said the land for relocating the people is already there but most residents cannot afford to buy them.
“The program to relocate the people is already there but the problem is that of money. The central government is not remitting money to local councils, so local government does not have any revenue streams and we don’t not have any donors.
“Each block here has more than 32 rooms and at least seven families in every room. So 32 blocks multiply by seven in every house, the numbers are scary. The people do not have the money to buy the stands that have been identified as they are going for $3 800. The people do not have formal jobs, they are into vending and other menial jobs so they can’t afford the stands at Victory Park,” said Clr Gore.
He also said the SQs area has rampart cases of child headed families and the fear of them being abused is high hence the need for government to intervene. Through assistance from UNICEF and other organisations, the area has had a water tank and boreholes installed in a bid to provide resident with clean safe drinking water.