Conditions at JHB Methodist church deteriorating

As the cholera crisis intensifies, Eyewitness News has discovered that hundreds of homeless...

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As the cholera crisis intensifies, Eyewitness News has discovered that hundreds of homeless Zimbabweans are living in deteriorating conditions at the Central Methodist Church in the <?xml:namespace prefix="st1" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags"?><city w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Johannesburg city centre.

An estimated 1 600 Zimbabweans are taking refuge at the c<place w:st="on"><placetype w:st="on">hurch.<?xml:namespace prefix="o" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office"?>

Many of the foreigners do not eat for days and forced to scavange for food left behind by train commuters.

A Zimbabwean woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told Eyewitness News that scores of babies are being born at the facility, many without medical assistance.

“By the time when they break the waters and the time to get the transport, it will be late so most of our mothers deliver in the toilets. So we normally give them the nick names our ’toilet babies’.”

In some cases, children as young as seven are crossing the border into <place w:st="on"><country-region w:st="on">South Africa</country-region> unaccompanied by their parents or other adults.

By day hundreds of Zimbabians live outside the church, by night they lay down on sheets of newspaper without blankets.

Due to the appalling conditions inside the church, one man said he prefers sleeping outside

“I’m sleeping outside, because inside there is too much lice," he said.

Another man explained the pecking order of who gets to sleep inside the church as opposed to spending the night outside.

"Only a few get inside maybe when somebody gets a job, when he gets accomadation elsewhere, then one or two gets inside."

The church, while trying its utmost to accommodate the people, is runnning out of space, but men, women and children fleeing <place w:st="on"><country-region w:st="on">Zimbabwe</country-region> continue to stream through its doors.

The World Health Organisation says that over 300 people have now died of cholera.