Bulawayo – More than 40 children in Zimbabwe have been admitted to hospital after inhaling teargas let off by riot police inside their block of flats in Bulawayo, a human rights lawyer has claimed.
The incident took place when police responded to sporadic attacks by a group of young people during demonstrations against President Robert Mugabe two weeks ago.
In a telephone interview with News24, the director of Abammeli Human Rights Lawyers Network, Tineyi Mukwewa, said police hadused teargas and water cannons inside the Burombo flats as they tried to flush out suspects.
Mukwewa said his organisation was documenting and assessing the cases before "taking the necessary litigation measures".
He said at least 43 children and four adults had been taken to a private hospital.
"The kids were trapped inside and were unable to breathe, because the flats have no proper ventilating systems in place. We therefore had to rush them to a hospital for treatment," Mukwewa said.
Mukwewa claimed that some of the children, aged between 3 and 16, were coughing up blood.
Lezina Mohamed, who organised medical assistance for the affected children, said it was heart breaking to see children vomiting and being unable to breathe properly.
She said police were "vicious" and had not allowed those affected access to immediate medical help.
"It was a horrible sight to see. Even today, some of the kids are still not well, they have running tummies and are still vomiting," said Mohamed.
Acccording to reports last week, a 1-year-old baby died after she allegedly inhaled teargas. The baby was sleeping when police arrrived and fired teargas canisters.
The father, David Mutasa, said he noticed his daughter had difficulty breathing and tried to get the police to help, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
He only managed to get his daughter out of the house after riot police had left. The baby reportedly died on her way to hospital.