Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Reporter
His name is Hope.
Hope for a better life. Hope that God will hear their prayers. Hope that they will finally be released from the shackles of a traumatic ordeal.
He is an innocent soul, conceived in an unlikely place, but he has brought with him hope that life after Cyclone Idai can still return to normalcy.
Born a fortnight ago, Brilliant Hope is one of the many babies that are being born in the camps that were established soon after Cyclone Idai hit Chimanimani and other parts of the country.
The camps were meant to be a temporary measure to provide shelter to the hundreds of people whose homes were destroyed by the cataclysmic disaster.
However, a year after the calamity, the unfortunate families are still housed in the tents.
Hope’s mother, Marvellous Gwenzi, expressed fears that her child would not have a good life if she is not moved from the tents they are currently calling home.
“We have been in these tents since April last year. When we came to stay here, we thought it would only be for three months or so, before moving to permanent structures.
“However, I conceived and gave birth while still in this tent. I hope my baby will not grow up in these conditions,” she said.
Initially, Gwenzi and her husband had to share their tent with their teenage sons and daughter, thereby completely robbing them of their privacy.
The family of seven was later allocated a second tent.
How then did Marvellous Gwenzi manage to conceive with their teenage children sleeping in the “next room”, only divided by a thin piece of tarpaulin?
Well, one cannot defy nature and little Hope is proof of how those displaced by the cyclone have had to sacrifice some of their traditional beliefs and culture.
“Life in the tents is painful. There is no secret in these tents. We sleep in the same room with our grown-up children. This is not a good set-up to raise a child in. What are we teaching our children? We need to move from these tents so that our children can grow up morally upright,” she said.
But little Hope was not a mistake.
His parents planned for his arrival.
Not that they had wanted another baby to add on to the five they already had. Rather, his conception was a sentimental decision.
The couple lost a child to the cyclone.
Their 10-year-old daughter was swept away by the ravaging waters that brought with them so much destruction.
Marvellous could not hide her grief as she expressed how she feels after losing a child in such circumstances. “We planned to have this child (Hope) after losing our daughter to the cyclone. We had hoped that we would have another girl since we already had four boys, but now that he is here, I am just thankful to have him with us. His big brother christened him Brilliant, but his father named him Hope, hope for a better future,” she said.
Her main worry is now on the health of her little boy.
With mosquitoes feasting on them daily, rats coming in willy-nilly, and flies buzzing freely from the bushes into the tents, only God can save her child from contracting diseases.
Even the heat that comes in during the day and the cold that replaces it at night are too much for little Hope. Can he be spared from pneumonia?
“Winter is almost upon us and it will be colder than it is now. We wonder how we will survive with these young ones.
“We cannot buy a bed because there is nowhere to put it. I am worried about my child’s health. I pray that one day we will get a small house where we can move to so that we can all be safe,” Marvellous said.
She is not the only one who is hopeful. Many other mothers and mothers-to-be in the camps are hopeful that they will not have to raise their children in the squalid conditions.
Chipo Simango (20) got married after the cyclone and she is expecting her first child any day from now.
Although she has the support of her mother-in-law, whom she stays with, she worries that she might not be able to cope with being a new mother in such an environment.
“I am nine months pregnant and due to deliver any day from now. I do not think I am ready to deliver this baby in these conditions. How will I raise my baby in a tent that is either hot or cold depending on the weather? What if my baby falls ill? I am really worried,” she said.
Simango says she has been down for the better part of her pregnancy with flu and diarrhoea. And the unforgiving ground she has to sleep on has not been easy on her back.
“I cannot sleep most of the time because the ground is too hard. It hurts whenever I sleep. I am really worried that my child will be exposed to these harsh conditions,” she said.
Although there are no statistics on the number of children born to mothers staying in the tents, it is obvious the numbers will keep growing if the survivors are not moved to a more permanent place.
Chimanimani Rural Hospital sister-in-charge Tendai Masvaure said there are no such records since the mothers do not identify the camps as their place of residence.
“We have seen a number of children born after the cyclone and we know there are some who are staying in the camps, but we do not have figures because when the mothers come, they do not mention that they are from the camps.
“They might just put their previous addresses in Ngangu or a relative’s address. As a result, we do not have the figures on the number of babies born to women staying in camps,” she said.
In Ngangu, there are three camps where people are being housed in tents.
In a recent interview with The Manica Post, Chimanimani East Member of Parliament Cde Joshua Sacco said Government was exploring various options in order to construct houses for the displaced people. Stands have already been pegged in Nhedziwa and roads are being constructed.
“The process has been long and difficult for us for a number of reasons. First, we had to undertake a survey, a geospatial survey, looking at the geographical location to identify areas that are safe for the people’s relocation,” said Cde Sacco.