Harrowing tales of hunger, neglect in Mudzi

TENDAI Moyo (not real name) is a 36-year-old epileptic widow who lives in Mukota B ward in Mudzi, 222km north east of Harare.

Source: Harrowing tales of hunger, neglect in Mudzi – The Standard May 22, 2016

By Moses Mugugunyeki

She stays with her six-year-old daughter and they hardly have any food to eat.

Moyo is among many villagers in Mudzi who are facing acute drought-induced hunger.

“I wake-up early in the morning to pick-up masawu [tropical fruits] which serve as breakfast,” Moyo told The Standard last week.

“We hardly have a meal in the afternoon and most of the times we go to bed without eating anything.”

Moyo, who is not a beneficiary of any food aid programme, said the crops she planted in December failed due to poor rains.

“Despite my health problems, I planted maize on my small plot, but the crop failed because of erratic rains,” she said.

Moyo who is epileptic suffered permanent disability on her feet after she fell into a fireplace due to drop seizures caused by her condition. She is among thousands of vulnerable people who are not benefitting from any drought relief programme.

The United Nations last week said nearly five million people we are in dire need of food assistance in Zimbabwe.

Mudzi being one of the driest districts in the country, is among the worst affected.

Patricia Nhauro told a harrowing story of starvation, saying she was struggling to feed seven orphaned grandchildren.

“I am looking after seven grandchildren and my mother. Sometimes we forego breakfast and eat a meal in the afternoon,” she told a delegation led by secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Elhadj As Sy last Sunday.

“A lot of people are hungry because the fields failed us.

“The situation is out of hand as some of us have pulled children out of school because we are failing to raise fees,” she said.

Nhauro said she only harvested less than a bucketful of round nuts, which she boils and serve as a meal. She said sometimes they go for days without a meal.

Nhauro, who is among 1 200 beneficiaries of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society cash transfer programme, said the $40 per month had eased her burden.

“I am happy that I am getting money from the Red Cross. When I get it, I buy three 10kg bags of maize meal, which last for 10 days,” she said. “I use some of the money to buy soap and cooking oil. I just keep fingers crossed that this programme continues.”

Nhauro said apart from the ZRCS there was no one to assist because her children were all late.

Another villager, Vigilance Tsabora, who stays with her disabled mother, said she was not benefitting from any food aid programme.

“We are not part of any food aid programme. My mother is frail and disabled, but surprisingly she was not incorporated into any government programme,” she said.

Mudzi assistant district administrator Priscilla Muguto confirmed that food aid programmes were benefitting only a handful of people in the area.

Muguto said she hoped the ZRCS intervention would be extended to the next harvest season.

Villagers who spoke to The Standard said government was reluctant to address the food situation in the area.

They said apart from the food insecurity situation, livestock were on the brink of starvation as most water sources and pasture were fast disappearing.

“Government is quite and many people are starving. They come here and make promises which they don’t fulfil,” said a villager who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Look, most water sources, including Mudzi River are dry at this time of the year. It will be a difficult year for people and domestic animals.”

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst drought since the 1992 one that killed more than one million cattle.

President Robert Mugabe has since declared the drought a national disaster and the government is appealing for at least $3,5 billion to feed vulnerable families until March next year.

IFRC has since launched a $5,1 million emergency appeal to complement government food security efforts and alleviate human suffering.

The programme will provide basic food assistance, agriculture and livelihood support, clean water and hygiene promotion in eight districts that include Mudzi, Mwenezi in Masvingo, Lower Gweru in Midlands and Kariba in Mashonaland West, as well as Muzarabani in Mashonaland Central. The other districts are Chipinge and Buhera in Manicaland, Gwanda and Binga in Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North respectively.

These are among the most affected districts, according to the ZimVac Assessment.

“The situation is bad, hence we have launched an emergency appeal, which will go a long way in assisting the needy,” said ZRCS secretary-general Maxwell Phiri.

“As is always the case, available resources outweigh competing humanitarian needs, but we believe our efforts in the targeted districts will make a big difference.”

More than 38 000 people from across the country will benefit from the programme, which will run for nine months.

Speaking after visiting hunger-stricken villagers in Mudzi last week, Sy said the food insecurity situation in the district was dire.

“Zimbabwe is one of the countries in southern Africa that has been affected by the El Ninó-induced drought. The situation in this part of the country is bad and it needs concerted efforts to alleviate the food crisis,” he said.

The Red Cross head who was in the country on a food assessment mission visited various families in Mudzi, before he met Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and UN agencies in the country. He said there was a possibility of Red Cross extending its intervention programmes to the next harvest season.

“Food aid programmes will be updated and adjusted based on the evolving nature of the crisis, new developments and assessments,” he said.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira said eight rural provinces would receive grain under the drought relief programme.

She said government acquired 700 000 metric tonnes of grain from Zambia and abroad for the drought relief programme.