TOO weak to sit, or even hold up his head, 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 both 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 TB.
When Cora Bailey, the director of Community Led Animal Welfare, first set sights on the sickly baby in September, he couldn't sit, nor hold his head up. Prince's mother, Happy, had come to Bailey's clinic in Durban Deep to give her gravely ill child to Bailey in desperation.
His condition was so severe that Bailey and a colleague from Sparrow Rainbow Village, a dedicated 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 now that Prince is back in his parents' dingy, crumbling mine hostel in Durban Deep, the vomiting and diarrhoea have started again.
"He got well," said Bailey. "At least he can now sit and hold up his head. But now that he is back in the same conditions, he's going to get malnourished again because there's not enough nutrition at home."
The 21-year-old Happy cut a dejected figure in the darkness of their bedroom. "He vomits all his food and medicine and breathes very fast. I would love to keep my child because he's always sick. As a mother, you want to look after your ill child. But I just don't have the means," she said.
She had already lost another baby, a three-month-old, who died from dehydration in August.
Prince's father, Mbizo, is a 28-year-old illegal miner who toils in a shaft just a few hundred metres from their home. Life was better when he struck it "lucky" underground. Happy would help him grind the 5g of precious gold dust he recovered, Prince strapped to her back. They would walk home with about R300.
That was until the hit squads - marauding gangs of Sothos - 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 Happy.
Mbizo 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 by now. "Before Cora helped us, there was no food," he explained.
"All we had was a 12.5kg pack of mealie meal. We didn't eat for two days at a time. Sometimes I would go hungry for two days and sacrifice my food for them. We'd all go to bed hungry, even the baby."
Going back to Zimbabwe was not an option. "If we go back, we'll starve. Here at least you can buy something for R2. We'd rather suffer here than go home," he said.
Bailey showed a letter from the social worker at Rahima Moosa imploring Child Welfare to urgently intervene as Prince is severely malnourished, HIV-positive and suffers from developmental delays. On Wednesday, they did.
Social workers this week removed Prince, placing him in a nearby children's home on the West Rand. "The mother is sick, the father is sick. It's not a good place for the children to live," said an official. "Until the parents are able to provide a proper home, he'll be with us. There will be visitation rights."
Bailey added: "There's a crisis with these children in need of care. But children's homes are struggling and worry that they won't receive foster care grants for foreign children."
Phindile Hlalele, the executive director of the ACFS, a feeding scheme that nourishes 20 000 children across Joburg, said malnutrition was a huge problem.
Hlalele is providing the remaining Sibanda children with milk and peanut butter sandwiches every week and hopes to deliver a food parcel every month.
"There is real hunger in the communities we visit... We find a lot of foreign children, neglected and hungry. Children are dying."