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Zimbabwean Newborn Babies Die in Homeless Camp, Amnesty Says

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Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) -- At least 21 newborn babies died in a five-month period at a settlement outside Zimbabwe’s capital for people made homeless by a slum-clearing exercise by the government in 2005, Amnesty International said.

The London-based rights group urged the government to investigate the deaths, which occurred at Hopely Farm, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Harare, according to a statement posted on Amnesty International’s website. Many of the mothers, who live in shacks, believed their babies died because of a lack of health care and cold temperatures, Amnesty said.

“When people were settled in Hopley, the government promised them a better life but things have gone from bad to worse,” Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy Africa director, said in the statement.

About 700,000 people were left homeless, the United Nations said in 2005, when President Robert Mugabe’s government carried out Operation Murambatsvina, which means “no tolerance for dirt” in the Shona language. The authorities said the operation was aimed at curbing crime and disease in city slums.

Many women in Hopley, which has about 5,000 residents, can’t afford the $50 the government demands for antenatal care because they lost their livelihoods when their homes and market places were destroyed, Amnesty said. The nearest maternity clinic is 8 kilometers away, it said.

Zimbabwe’s health ministry didn’t answer calls today seeking comment.

“The victims of Operation Murambatsvina have been forgotten by the government and, five years after losing their homes and livelihoods, their situation continues to deteriorate,” Kagari said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Durban at blatham@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.

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