Africa Asia Middle East عربي Français Português Subscribe IRIN Site Map
Global HIV/AIDS news and analysis
Advanced search
 Wednesday 22 October 2008
Weekly reports 
In-Depth reports 
Country profiles 
Fact files 
Most read 
Really Simple Syndication Feeds 
About PlusNews 
Contact PlusNews 
Print report
ZIMBABWE: Absent government puts burden of care on youth

Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson/IRIN
Young people are now left to care for their parents
HARARE, 20 October 2008 (PlusNews) - For almost six months now, John Mberi*, 14, from the high-density suburb of Mufakose in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, has been taking care of his sick mother, Fortunate, who returned home from neighbouring South Africa very ill.

The community attributed Fortunate's condition to food poisoning while awaiting deportation in the infamous Lindela repatriation camp in South Africa, but close family members knew that Fortunate was HIV positive.

Taking care of his ailing mother has been very difficult for John, and he often misses school when her condition is worse. On days like this he has to wash, cook, clean and bathe his mother in bed using a bucket of water.

"On her return from South Africa, my mother sent me to her only surviving brother, who lives in rural Mutoko [about 200km outside Harare]. He refused to come, saying we should relocate to the rural areas, but we had no money to hire a vehicle to ferry our things," John told IRIN/PlusNews.

To ensure the family's survival, he now sells roasted and salted groundnuts at a nearby bar after school. Occasionally the family gets help from the local United Methodist Church.

"Sometimes we can't afford the medicines that are prescribed at the local clinic. The drugs are cheap at the clinic but they normally don't have them in stock, so they tell us to go and buy on our own. My mother worries a lot but I have told her not to, because I will take care of her."

Palliative care still not widely understood

It was World Hospice and Palliative Care Day on 11 October but AIDS activists said in Zimbabwe there was little to celebrate.

John's situation is becoming increasingly common. As the HIV/AIDS pandemic takes it toll, many young people are carrying the responsibility of caring of sick members of the family, but are often unable to give them proper and adequate care.

Activists argue that the responsibility of caring for those with long-term or life-limiting illnesses lies with the government, not young people like John.

According to the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Zimbabwe (HOSPAZ), palliative care is defined as the management of the many physical, psychosocial, spiritual and emotional needs of people with progressive life-limiting illnesses; it is not about "helping someone die" but about "helping someone live as comfortably as possible with their illness".

Read more
 "At the end the patient dies, and I am left feeling affected"
 Care-givers also need shoulder to lean on
 NGOs struggle to feed the hungry
 Underpaid and undervalued - caregivers go hungry
 The challenge of stigma
Rachel Zimunya from HOSPAZ said palliative care was still not widely understood or implemented, and not standardised although Zimbabwe was one of the first countries in Africa to embrace the hospice and palliative care concept.

"Everyone living with a life-limiting illness has the right to quality hospice and palliative care to enable them to live with dignity and without undue pain or distress," she said on the Partners Zimbabwe website to raise awareness of the day.

"Lack of access to pain and symptom relief can prevent people living with HIV and AIDS, who may be experiencing painful and unpleasant side effects from antiretroviral (ARV) treatments, from adhering to ARVs, with the result that their life expectancy is curtailed. This breaches the right to life."

Tinashe Mundawarara, Programme Manager of the HIV/AIDS Human Rights and Law Project at Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), told IRIN/PlusNews: "The current health system in Zimbabwe, which is a narrative of strikes, stock-outs, expired drugs and a malfunctioning public health framework, is a cause of consternation rather than celebration. More so, there is no patient care and support system that includes the family in the hospitals."

He said there was an urgent need for reforming the laws on public health, educating people, and putting in place palliative care programmes in all hospitals as a matter of policy.

"People living with HIV/AIDS need to speak with one voice on the advocacy issues of access to treatment, drugs and care. Treatment, care and support are the hallmarks of palliative care."


Theme(s): (PLUSNEWS) Care/Treatment - PlusNews, (PLUSNEWS) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
Print report
FREE Subscriptions
Your e-mail address:

Submit your request
 More on Zimbabwe
GLOBAL: Climate change's threat to water needs more study
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Is the pen mightier than the virus?
GLOBAL: IRIN/PlusNews Weekly Issue 408, 10 October 2008
ZIMBABWE: Activists shout from the sidelines
GLOBAL: IRIN/PlusNews Weekly Issue 407, 3 October 2008
 More on Care/Treatment - PlusNews
SOUTH AFRICA: New health minister to champion AIDS treatment
MALAWI: Jackson Edward: "I may live longer than the people who talk ill about me"
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Skipping class, skipping treatment
ZIMBABWE: New government gives HIV-positive people hope
SOUTH AFRICA: New health minister has work cut out for her
Back | Home page

Services:  Africa | Asia | Middle East | Radio | Film & TV | Photo | E-mail subscription
Feedback · E-mail Webmaster · IRIN Terms & Conditions · Really Simple Syndication News Feeds · About PlusNews · Bookmark PlusNews · Donors

Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.