By Thomas Madhuku
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in Zimbabwe have stepped in to plug gaps in welfare relief for vulnerable citizens hit hard by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak, the government announced a Covid-19 relief fund targeted at vulnerable members of society to cushion them during Level Four lockdown which they said had affected the informal sector significantly.
With the government relief programme facing many challenges resulting in complaints from the vulnerable, NGOs have stepped up to fill the void.
Organisations such as the World Food Programme (WFP), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Red Cross, among others, have been distributing cash and foodstuff to people in rural areas as well as peri-urban settlements such as Epworth in Harare.
Chipo Simango, a Goal Zimbabwe beneficiary from Chipinge, in Manicaland Province, said the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had made it difficult for her to fend for her family of six.
“I am mother of six, an informal trader who relies on buying and selling. The coming of Covid-19 negatively affected me as I was no-longer able to travel and order my wares.
“My family was now starving as they were relying on the little I get from selling. Thanks to Goal Zimbabwe which is providing us with maize, sorghum, peas, beans and cooking oil, to feed our families,” said Simango.
Anna Maworera, from Epworth on the outskirts of Harare, who has been receiving cash for groceries from WFP, praised the relief as lifesaving saying she had days when she could not eat proper meals due to poverty.
“I used to be a vendor in town and for some time it was almost impossible to get into town, so as someone who lives on hand to mouth, I found my house without food yet I have children to feed. This relief helped a lot as I could go into the supermarket and buy all the basics using the WFP voucher,” said Maworera.
Platform for Youth and Community Development assistant gender advocacy and wellness officer, Allan Murozvi , commended the role of NGOs in alleviating hunger in Chipinge district saying their food hampers also helped reduce domestic violence in communities.
“Hunger is one of the causes of domestic violence in many households, (and so) donations of food hampers by NGOs have helped a lot in reducing incidences of domestic violence, and as an organisation we are grateful for that,” said Murozvi.
Speaking after receiving the 30,000 metric tonnes of grain from WFP, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Professor Paul Mavima, said Covid-19 had caused the depletion of sources of livelihoods for vulnerable Zimbabweans.
“The gesture was extended as a way of complementing Government efforts in ensuring food security to vulnerable households in the country. This came against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic which caused depletion of the sources of livelihoods of our populace, hence exacerbating their food insecurity,” said Mavima.
The Ambassador of Japan to Zimbabwe, Satoshi Tanaka, said they were prompted to assist in order to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in the country.
“The Government of Japan decided to provide this donation of maize given the severity of the current humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe,” said Tanaka.