No fin­ery or feasts for starv­ing lit­tle Prince

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - SHEREE BEGA

TOO weak to sit, Prince Sibanda is slowly starv­ing to death. The baby is al­most two, but his tiny body re­sem­bles that of an in­fant of five months.

He is se­verely mal­nour­ished be­cause his Zimbabwean par­ents – who, like him, are HIV-pos­i­tive – came to the City of Gold to seek their for­tune, and found only hunger in­stead.

Not only has Prince failed to reach his de­vel­op­men­tal mile­stones, such as talk­ing and walk­ing, he also suf­fers from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

When Cora Bai­ley, the di­rec­tor of Com­mu­nity Led An­i­mal Wel­fare, first set eyes on the baby in Septem­ber, he couldn’t sit or hold up his head. Prince’s mother, Happy, had come to Bai­ley’s clinic in Dur­ban Deep, Joburg, to give her child to Bai­ley in des­per­a­tion.

His con­di­tion was so se­vere that Bai­ley and a col­league from Spar­row Rain­bow Vil­lage, an HIV/Aids health care fa­cil­ity in Florida, rushed him to the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hos­pi­tal. There, he spent more than a month be­ing treated for kwash­iorkor, a form of se­vere mal­nu­tri­tion caused by in­ad­e­quate pro­tein con­sump­tion.

He re­cov­ered and was dis­charged on Oc­to­ber 16, but when he went back to his par­ents’ dingy mine hos­tel in Dur­ban Deep, the vom­it­ing and di­ar­rhoea started again.

“He got well,” says a wor­ried Bai­ley. “At least he can sit and hold up his head. But now that he is in the same con­di­tions, he is go­ing to get mal­nour­ished again be­cause there’s not enough nu­tri­tion at home.”

Happy, 21, cuts a de­jected fig­ure in the dark­ness of their bed­room. “He vom­its all his food and medicine and breathes very fast. As a mother, you want to look af­ter your ill child, but I just don’t have the means.”

She has al­ready lost another baby – a three-month-old – who died of de­hy­dra­tion in Au­gust.

Prince’s fa­ther, Mbizo, is a 28-year-old il­le­gal miner who toils in a shaft near their home.

Life was bet­ter when he struck it “lucky” un­der­ground. Happy would help him grind the 5g of pre­cious gold dust he re­cov­ered, for which they would earn about R300.

That was un­til the “hit squads” came. Mbizo’s friend was shot and Mbizo was as­saulted and left for dead.

“It’s not safe. They want to kill Zimbabwean min­ers. If I’m gone five days, my fam­ily wor­ries. They know I will come back dead. I have no pa­pers, I’m il­le­gal and I can’t get other work,” said Mbizo.

He hasn’t gone back to mine for the past six months. If it wasn’t for Bai­ley’s food parcels, the fam­ily – there are two other chil­dren, Nok­thula, 5, and Ashel, 4 – would have starved to death.

Go­ing back to Zim­babwe is not an op­tion. “If we go back we’ll starve. We’d rather suf­fer here than go home.”

Bai­ley shows a let­ter from the so­cial worker at Rahima Moosa im­plor­ing Child Wel­fare to in­ter­vene since Prince is se­verely mal­nour­ished, HIV-pos­i­tive and suf­fers from de­vel­op­men­tal de­lays. On Wed­nes­day, they did. So­cial work­ers re­moved Prince, plac­ing him in a chil­dren’s home on the West Rand. “Un­til the par­ents are able to pro­vide a proper home, he’ll be with us. There will be visi­ta­tion rights for the par­ents,” said an of­fi­cial.

Phindile Hlalele, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the ACFS, which feeds 20 000 chil­dren across Joburg, says mal­nu­tri­tion is a huge prob­lem.

Hlalele is now pro­vid­ing the re­main­ing Sibanda chil­dren with milk and peanut but­ter sand­wiches ev­ery week.

“There is real hunger… the kind that leads to mal­nu­tri­tion and kwash­iorkor. We find a lot of for­eign chil­dren ne­glected and hun­gry. Chil­dren are dy­ing.”


KIND­NESS: Cora Bai­ley helps the fam­ily

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