From IPS Africa, writer Ignatius Banda describes this new type of migration away from Zimbabwe.
"This is how desperate the people are to provide treatment for their children," said Khumbulani Khaphela, a pastor with an evangelical fellowship church working in rural Plumtree.
"Some families after hearing that others have sent their children across the border have approached us to assist them with going there as well," he said. The churches are expected to finance the medical trips as part of their contribution toward efforts to save the lives of HIV-positive children.
The people of Plumtree are no strangers to migration. Men and women have been forced to leave their poverty-stricken villages as the lack of access to running water, high unemployment, lack of medical care and a litany of woes hit the rural communities hard. Thousands left their homes to work in Botswana and South Africa while sending back a portion of their earnings to their families.
But this migration, HIV/AIDS researchers and local elders say, has contributed to the spread of the virus as husbands living and working away from their wives and families engaged in extramarital sexual relations and returned home HIV-positive. This resulted in the birth of a number of HIV-positive children.
The migration into bordering countries to seek medical attention for children has also been partially been driven by the growing number of HIV-positive urban residents who flock to rural areas for ART. They have sought out treatment in rural hospitals where waiting lists for ARVs are deemed shorter than those in large towns like Bulawayo. However, the FBOs say there have also been reports of parents from urban centres, like Bulawayo, who have also resorted to transporting their children to neighbouring countries for treatment.
"From what we are hearing, it is easy for children with tuberculosis and HIV to be treated in South Africa’s government hospitals," said Josphat Dakamela, a village elder in Plumtree. "What can we do? Everybody knows there are no medicines in the country (Zimbabwe) so what is happening here is no surprise."