Joseph Madzimure Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has in the past two weeks, disbursed nearly $8 million to over 47 000 households towards urban food deficit mitigation as part of efforts to cushion needy families during the Covid-19 lockdown.
At least $3,8 million was released to at least 21 431 households in Harare and Bulawayo, while more than $4 million was extended to 26 140 households in small towns such as Bindura, Kariba, Kwekwe, Gwanda, Plumtree, Shurugwi, Mvuma and Beitbridge.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima said cash payments had replaced grain allocations in urban areas.
Registration of beneficiaries was ongoing and was scheduled for completion before the end of this month and Government had scaled up cash disbursements.
Prof Mavima revealed that a total of 63 000 households in 23 poorest districts of the country had also been supported.
The programme was aimed at strengthening household economies, building resilience to deficits and reducing negative coping mechanism.
A total of $25,2 million had been disbursed since January 2020 and the payments were being done using EcoCash.
The benefiting districts included Buhera, Binga, Bulilima, Chivi, Mwenezi, Mudzi, Gokwe North, Zvimba, Mazowe, Rushinga, Goromonzi, Mutare, Gweru, Chipinge, Makoni, Bindura, Zvishavane, Kariba, Mangwe, Umguza, Mzilikazi, St Mary’s (Chitungwiza) and Epworth (Harare).
More districts would be added on to the programme once the target has been completed.
In districts where there is no harmonised social cash transfers, Government was assisting through the public assistance programme, where vulnerable households got cash transfers.
A total of 8 551 beneficiaries were paid $2 million during the same period to mitigate the effects of poverty and Covid-19.
Minister Mavima said the payments were made on a monthly basis through the People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB).
On cash transfers for Covid-19 relief, he said, his ministry had submitted to Treasury, a total of 201 631 beneficiaries whose livelihoods were affected by the measures put in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Local authorities, informal traders’ associations and the Ministries of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development; Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, had submitted lists of affected people.
“A further 800 000 beneficiaries were identified through an elaborate system of those who transact relatively low amounts on the EcoCash platform. Payment will commence once Treasury authority is granted,” he said.
Minister Mavima said $2 million was earmarked for this programme this month, adding that this method was used successfully globally including in Zambia.
Government has distributed over 7 000 tonnes of grain to vulnerable communities in all the eight rural provinces during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
Cumulatively, 80 000 tonnes of grain had been distributed to vulnerable households since January this year.