Mazowe River Bridge Centre
Mazowe River Bridge, Rushinga District in Mashonaland Central Province
Location of the Centre
Mazowe River Bridge Centre is located 286km in the North-East part of Zimbabwe in Rushinga District in Mashonaland Central Province near the Mozambican border. The road is surfaced up to Rushinga and the remaining part of 40 kilometers is dust road.
History of the Centre
The Centre is one of the five former refugee camps which accommodated former refugees from Mozambique during the years of civil war in that country. HelpAge International (HAI) had direct responsibility to administer to the needs of the elderly and the disabled in the five camps. After the war in 1992 all willing Mozambicans were repatriated beginning in July 1993 ending December 1994. The remaining refugees, among others the elderly and the disabled, who could not, for various reasons, be repatriated, were moved from the other four camps to this camp in order to provide cost effective material and social support. It became an institution for the destitute people including the elderly and the disabled persons.
HAI handed over the responsibility and administration of the issues pertaining to the welfare of older persons to the Government of Zimbabwe in 1995. From 1995 to January 2005 the Centre was under the administration of the National Organization for Development of the Disadvantaged [NODED], which operated under the auspices of the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) and HAZ was complementing the efforts supplementing to the needs of the older persons on a monthly basis in terms of food, soap and occasionally clothes and blankets. After a series of consultations and meetings between HAZ, NODED, DSW and other stake holders, taking cognizance of the appropriateness of an organization to deal with the needs of the beneficiaries, the Centre was handed over to HAZ. It is now the full responsibility of HAZ and Centre staffs have been recruited.
Composition of the beneficiaries and their history
There are 68 older persons whose ages fall between 60 years and 94 years. There are 7 remaining ex-refugees who came from Mozambique, the majority has since died. 33 also came from Mozambique as economic migrants seeking employment. Of these 20 are ex-farm workers, 12 are ex-miners and 1 is an ex-builder. There are 20 ex-farm workers and 6 ex-miners of Malawian origin. 3 are ex-miners from Zambia, 6 are Zimbabwean ex-farm workers who lost contact with their relatives. There are other referrals being admitted at the centre, mostly referred by the Department Of Social Welfare. The Centre has become a home for many ex-farm workers and ex-miners in their old age and the majorities are foreigners who have no relatives or have lost touch with their relatives. The figures continue to fluctuate as some come and some die, some go out of the Centre presumably to find their relatives especially Zimbabweans. The Centre is also becoming a “dumping ground” as it were, of “spent force” by commercial farmers who come to leave their former employees when they get old and have no relatives or home to go to.
The physical status of the beneficiaries varies from the able-bodied, the lame, the blind and the mentally ill. Some require constant attention due to incontinence; some are diabetic, asthmatic, hypertensive, arthritic and other ailments associated with ageing.
Statement of the problem
Before the repatriation of the refugees, the needs of the elderly and the disabled were predictable and limited to the mandate of care and maintenance as stated in the Zimbabwe Refugees Act 1983. After the repatriation there was uncertainty as to what form and extent of assistance could be given to the remaining group. In 1995 and again in 2003 HAZ commissioned Needs Assessments for the elderly and disabled at the Centre and the following critical needs among others were found:
- Health care
- Literary needs
- Religious needs
- Occupational therapy
- Need for decent burial
HAZ partly fulfilled some of these needs since it was complementing the efforts of NODED the then overall administrator of the Centre. However, with the hostile economic climate that has set in Zimbabwe since the year 2000, the living conditions for the inhabitants of the Center deteriorated to a point of near destitution that the DSW decided that the interests of the beneficiaries would be better met by HAZ.
Another needs assessment was carried out by HAZ after the handover in January 2005 and the following needs have been identified.
- Food (balanced diet)
- Shelter constructions, renovations and electrification
- Construction of dining room, kitchen and laundry room
- Kitchen and dining equipment and utensils
- Additional 3 bathrooms and 3 Blair toilets
- Health care needs (supply of drugs e.g. malaria drugs and pain killers. The disabled need special equipment to assist them according to the form of disability, e.g. crutches, wheelchairs and spectacles)
- Beds and mattresses
- Clothing and blankets
- Toiletries and disinfectants)
- Deep Freezer
Of major concern is the access to health care by older persons. There are two referral hospitals within Rushinga District. The first one being Chimhanda District Hospital, a government Health Centre that is located about 26km from the home while Karanda Hospital is a missionary hospital fully equipped and staffed to attend to a wide range of health problems. The hospital is located 75km from MRB towards Mt Darwin. Older persons are usually referred to Karanda where there are better facilities and doctors. The frequency for medical check ups and treatment is hampered by lack of transport since the home has to rely on transport provided by HAZ Harare Office.
Other Projects Being Implemented.
HAZ, through the support from SAG a network supporting older persons around the world provided support to establish the piggery project in 2007. Initially, the project started off with six pigs bought for breeding composed of one bow and five sows. At one stage the project flourished with up to 47 pigs from the project. The income was eroded by the hyper-inflationary environment prevailing. The project however scaled down to 8pigs due to the scarcity of food both on the market and lack of project capacity to buy supplies. There are already 18pig sites built during the period. The project still lacks a sustainable water source, food and medical supplies.
The grinding mill was affected by intermittent power cuts that blew up the motor. The motor has since been replaced and a new mounting for the motor is being renovated. The business for the grinding mill has been low due to little or no grain being brought to the mill due to poor or no harvests. The grinding mill project will be resuscitated within the next two months at the start of the harvest period.
Another project being implemented is the freezit making project. The project is usually on peak during the hot season. There are two deep freezers donated by Zimre and are being used for this project.
Every year the home engages in summer season cropping. Traditionally, the crops grown are maize and sorghum for cereals, while pulse is complemented by cow peas grown. This year the home has put four hectares under maize and one hectare of sorghum. HAZ supplied the required inputs and supported with logistics to see through the agricultural season program. Labor for cultivation and crop management processes has been out sourced from locals since older persons are frail and weak due to advanced age and poor health.