Apr 26

Red Ants beat residents of Alexandra Township with crowbars

WAVING iron bars and pickaxes, the Red Ants, a rented mob of thugs in bright red overalls and crimson helmets, used the half-light of dawn for cover as they marched into the slum. Stamping out the first cooking fires of the day with heavy boots, they spread out in a long line. Then they attacked.

Bleary immigrant women dropped plastic water containers and ran in panic towards their corrugated iron homes. “Grab the children,” they screamed.

By sunrise their shacks on the outskirts of Johannesburg had been razed. They were forced to watch as their few possessions were burnt.

The Red Ants, described as state-sponsored mercenaries by their critics, have become a growing force in the past few months as South African cities have begun a campaign of “beautification” before the World Cup begins in June. This means clearing away unsightly immigrant squatter camps.

This month, more than 100 Zimbabweans were beaten and evicted by Red Ants from a derelict building on the main road to Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, one of the football tournament’s main venues.

It followed a series of Red Ant evictions ordered by the provincial department of public transport along main roads within a mile of the stadium, which will host five matches. Hundreds more Zimbabweans were forcibly evicted from properties in central Johannesburg. Continue reading »

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Oct 04

Child mortality rates have doubled in India’s slums. In Rajasthan, Surma lost her son Parmesh to easily preventable diarrhoea at only four years old. Source: Save the Children Link to this video

India’s growing status as an economic superpower is masking a failure to stem a shocking rate of infant deaths among its poorest people.

Nearly two million children under five die every year in India – one every 15 seconds – the highest number anywhere in the world. More than half die in the month after birth and 400,000 in their first 24 hours.

A devastating report by Save the Children, due out on Monday, reveals that the poor are disproportionately affected and the charity accuses the country of failing to provide adequate healthcare for the impoverished majority of its one billion people. While the World Bank predicts that India’s economy will be the fastest-growing by next year and the country is an influential force within the G20, World Health Organisation figures show it ranks 171st out of 175 countries for public health spending.

Malnutrition, neonatal diseases, diarrhoea and pneumonia are the major causes of death. Poor rural states are particularly affected by a dearth of health resources. But even in the capital, Delhi, where an estimated 20% of people live in slums, the infant mortality rate is reported to have doubled in a year, though city authorities dispute this.

In the Bhagwanpura slum on the north-west fringes of the capital, numerous mothers have lost one or more infants in their first years of life through want of basic medical attention.

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Jul 29

With little cash and import prices rocketing half the population faces starvation

In Cité Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince’s worst slums, making the clay-based food is a major income earner. Mud cakes are the only inflation-proof food available to Haiti’s poor. Photograph: David Levene

At first sight the business resembles a thriving pottery. In a dusty courtyard women mould clay and water into hundreds of little platters and lay them out to harden under the Caribbean sun.

The craftsmanship is rough and the finished products are uneven. But customers do not object. This is Cité Soleil, Haiti’s most notorious slum, and these platters are not to hold food. They are food.

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