No finery or feasts for starving little Prince
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