CAJ News Agency (Johannesburg)

23 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Sex-for-Food Scheme Expose Children to STIs

Masvingo — HUNDREDS of people, among them monitors as young as 14, have contracted sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) since the beginning of the year as the situation at the Chingwizi transit camp turn dire by the day.

Concerned heath officials said the number of STI cases reported at Chingwizi have shot up to 310 cases from the 200 cases reported last month.

More than 12 000 people that were displaced by flooding at the country's largest inland lake, Tokwe Mukosi dam basin have been staying since February.

Health officials have attributed the increase to the" food for sex" syndrome in which government officials at the holding camp are allegedly demanding sexual favors from inmates in return for food.

Officials also said that they have held several health awareness campaigns in the transit camp but to no avail.

A rising number of teenage girls are among those that have contracted diseases after dropping out of school to engage in prostitution.

Masvingo Provincial Medical Director, Robert Mudyiradima, confirmed the development adding that the ministry was concerned by the disease outbreaks at the transit camp.

“We are holding a series of healthy awareness campaigns in conjunction with other NGOs to ensure that we minimize the diseases," said Mudyiradima.

"We are really worried by the increasing of STI cases at the camp," he added.

An official within the health ministry who refused to be named since he is not allowed to talk to the press told CAJ news that "sex for food" was hampering efforts to curb the diseases.

"We are having problems in containing the disease because women are just engaging in sex for survival," said the official.

"Children as young as 14 years have also been affected and the situation is very disturbing," he said.

Women at the holding camp said that they will do “anything” to survive including prostitution.

"We cannot just watch as our children are dying of hunger," said one of the women.

"We need food hence we are prepared to sell our bodies for sex in order to survive," she added.

The United Nations World Food Programme recently averted disaster at the holding camp after most donors ditched the inmates over lack of transparency in the distribution of food.

It has availed a four month funding package which will see inmates getting food rations until September this year.

Government expects that by then it will have secured money to compensate the inmates who are refusing to leave the camp until they are paid.

Recently, Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, had to flee angry residents who attacked him and his entourage to protest the alleged abuse of funds meant for the flood victims' welfare.

The ruling ZANU PF party has since tasked Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, to urgently secure funding to compensate the flood victims.

The flood victims are refusing to vacate the holding camp unless they are given compensation in addition to the land they were promised.

Initially, government had promised to give the inmates two hectares of land but has since changed and is now offering only a hectare of land per family.

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