Peo­ple in cities also need food aid

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

TRA­DI­TION­ALLY food in­se­cu­rity is syn­ony­mous with peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas whereas those in towns and cities tended to be al­ways well fed. The same ap­plied to poverty. It was a ru­ral prob­lem, more specif­i­cally a woman’s. As ru­ral lives gen­er­ally re­volve around sub­sis­tence agri­cul­ture, drought fre­quently left vil­lagers hun­gry. Those with rel­a­tives work­ing in towns were less af­fected as they got sup­plies from there. In­comes were al­most al­ways higher in towns than in ru­ral ar­eas.

How­ever, food in­se­cu­rity, like poverty, has in re­cent years mi­grated to the city where it is af­flict­ing a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple.

It is there­fore not use­ful for any­one to keep on pre­tend­ing that res­i­dents in Harare, Bu­l­awayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo and other ur­ban cen­tres are well supplied and vil­lagers al­ways not. The Gov­ern­ment, like all of us, now un­der­stands that the so­cial and eco­nomic de­pri­va­tion that is his­tor­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with the coun­try­side and the plenty that is his­tor­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with cities is not rel­e­vant any­more.

This has been so be­cause thou­sands of ur­ban­ites are los­ing jobs as the econ­omy strug­gles. Ad­di­tion­ally, the HIV and Aids pan­demic is af­flict­ing some peo­ple, a sit­u­a­tion that de­stroys liveli­hoods and cre­ates a sub­stan­tial pop­u­la­tion of un­well peo­ple, child-headed fam­i­lies, or­phans and those that are be­ing taken care of by re­source-poor el­derly.

As we re­port else­where, the Gov­ern­ment re­cently de­cided to ex­tend the dis­tri­bu­tion of food aid to Harare and Bu­l­awayo, prob­a­bly for the first time in the his­tory of or­gan­ised food as­sis­tance pro­grammes in the coun­try.

That it took a lot of con­vinc­ing by met­ro­pol­i­tan min­is­ters, Cdes Nomthandazo Eunice Moyo in Bu­l­awayo and Miriam Chikukwa in Harare for some in Gov­ern­ment to agree to this in­ter­ven­tion un­der­scores the con­ven­tional mis­taken un­der­stand­ing of the ecol­ogy of poverty and food se­cu­rity in the coun­try.

In Bu­l­awayo over 3 000 vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple have ben­e­fited since Wed­nes­day last week. Ben­e­fi­cia­ries from the first batch in­cluded res­i­dents from Lu­veve, Cow­dray Park, Makokoba, Mzi­likazi, Njube, Iminyela sub­urbs.

“We’ve man­aged to do the dis­tri­bu­tions for July as an­tic­i­pated. We dis­trib­uted ac­cord­ing to the Gov­ern­ment’s di­rec­tives by dis­tribut­ing to the har­monised cash trans­fers and pub­lic as­sis­tance mem­bers,” said Bu­l­awayo Met­ro­pol­i­tan Prov­ince so­cial wel­fare of­fi­cer Mr Chriswell Nyakudya.

“We dis­trib­uted grain to 3 115 vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple. Out of 156, 75 tonnes we dis­trib­uted 155, 75 tonnes giv­ing us a bal­ance of one tonne. One tonne was left be­cause ben­e­fi­cia­ries did not turn up to claim their share.”

He said in some wards dis­trib­u­tors were forced to give the food aid to de­serv­ing peo­ple who were not on their lists as the tar­geted mem­bers were not avail­able.

“We ended up giv­ing the left overs to the dis­abled, el­derly, chron­i­cally ill, wid­ows and wid­ow­ers and or­phans. The ward screen­ing team came up with the lists,” he said. “We need an ur­ban poverty as­sess­ment com­mit­tee. We need Zim­babwe Vul­ner­a­bil­ity As­sess­ment Com­mit­tee (ZimVac) to do a sci­en­tific in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine the poverty lev­els in the cities. At the mo­ment we don’t have any sci­ence ev­i­dence based fig­ure.”

The Gov­ern­ment took the right de­ci­sion to in­tro­duce food aid pro­vi­sion in Bu­l­awayo and Harare as thou­sands of poor peo­ple in both cities went hun­gry in si­lence with ev­ery­one re­fus­ing to ac­knowl­edge that there are new threats to food se­cu­rity from time to time, from place to place. But we are cer­tain that the 3 115 peo­ple who have been given food hand­outs over the past seven days are only a frac­tion of the peo­ple in Bu­l­awayo who wake up ev­ery morn­ing not know­ing where their meal for the day is go­ing to come from. The same must ap­ply to Harare as well.

For this rea­son we agree with Mr Nyakudya when he says poverty as­sess­ment ini­tia­tives like ZimVac must not over­look the two met­ro­pol­i­tan re­gions for re­li­able in­for­ma­tion to be com­piled for re­sponse mech­a­nisms to be put in place so that peo­ple don’t suf­fer when they should not.

He chal­lenged the pri­vate sec­tor to join the Gov­ern­ment in as­sist­ing those in need of food aid.

“We could be cov­er­ing more ground if other stake­hold­ers could come on board. The regis­tra­tion com­mit­tee has reg­is­tered ben­e­fi­cia­ries so that we give the fig­ures to the Min­is­ter of State for Pro­vin­cial Af­fairs Nomthandazo Eunice Moyo so that she can brief the Pres­i­dent that in Bu­l­awayo we still have more peo­ple in need of food aid,” he said

While still at that, we im­plore non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions to get in­volved too. We ap­pre­ci­ate that many of them are al­ready im­ple­ment­ing so­cial wel­fare projects like nu­tri­tional gar­dens in the western sub­urbs for peo­ple liv­ing with HIV and Aids, but they might need to con­sider ex­pand­ing their cov­er­age to more di­rect and im­me­di­ate food hand­outs, com­ple­ment­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s new ef­fort.

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