KADOMA — Rangarirai Garawoga (16) of Rimuka, a high-density suburb in this gold-rich town, 145km from the capital, had been struggling to eke out a living after dropping out of school.
Garawoga’s 20-year-old brother is unemployed and the two used to rely on the goodwill of well-wishers and did odd jobs for scraps of food and pieces of clothing items.
“The situation is just bad,” said the teenager. “We often get short-term contracts from people who want us to do piece jobs for them.”
He has also worked in grinding mills and ploughed people’s maize fields to get by. His situation, however, did not escape the notice of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) who, through their food security programme supported by the Japanese government, threw him a lifeline.
Garawoga is one of the 12 000 beneficiaries of the food voucher programme throughout the country, bankrolled to the tune of $1,5 million. The beneficiaries include orphans, the elderly and people living with HIV.
The voucher, valued at $20, allows the beneficiary to purchase a limited number of basic items such as mealie meal, beans, cooking oil, salt and soap.
Another beneficiary, 64-year-old Joseph Kundire, also of Rimuka, is terminally ill and could not be present to receive his voucher which he would use to purchase basic food items. His niece, Membesi Ndala, collected the card on his behalf.
“This programme has helped us as relatives,” Ndala said. “I am also a widow and I have been taking care of him (Kundire) for four years. The situation is relatively better now because we are getting this food assistance.”
She appealed to the Kadoma Municipality to revise its rates downwards to ease the burden on families looking after relatives living with HIV.
“A lot of the time we don’t have the water, yet we are still expected to pay the $20. We have resorted to using water from boreholes. There is also serious load-shedding and we have to pay an average of $83 for electricity,” she said.
Muchaneta Rungurani (17) lives with her mother in an area called MaGB, and is a school drop-out due to lack of money for fees.
She used to do a number of odd jobs including domestic work, selling people’s vegetables or clothing items at the market for an average of $4.
“I am grateful for this programme because we are being supplied with food,” she said. “Before, it was very difficult to get money to buy food.”
Through the programme, she has been able to purchase 20kg of mealie meal, two litres of cooking oil, beans and soap using the card she was issued with by the ZRCS.
At 71 years, Lotwell Chakwana lives alone in Rimuka. His two children relocated to South Africa and he has not heard from them in the last five years.
“I live alone and I have been surviving from handouts I get from people whose fields I ploughed and from the sell of firewood. I would get about $5 or a small pack of mealie meal for a job,” he said.
“I believe that this programme will help me a lot,” he said. “I am confident that now my survival is guaranteed, although I am still waiting to see how it will work out.”
Although last year 2 000 people benefited from the programme, this year the number was revised downwards due to dwindling funds.
Councillor for Ward 3, Bothwell Pasipamire, was full of praises for the programme, which he said had made the situation for the vulnerable, especially elderly women looking after grandchildren whose parents died of HIV-related illnesses, better.
“This programme is really helpful. You will notice that many of the beneficiaries are grandmothers looking after orphans,” he said.
This year, 57 people benefited from the programme although last year the number was pegged at 117. He expressed hope that the remainder would be catered for the in the programme’s next phase.
According to ZRCS acting secretary-general Lucky Goteka, the programme, now in its third phase, has had a “self-explanatory” positive impact on the community.
“Food security is indeed a challenge in most areas of Zimbabwe and I salute the good working relationship ZRCS enjoys with the government of Zimbabwe in addressing this issue,” he said.
Mashonaland West provincial administrator, Christopher Shumba, appealed to the Kadoma Municipal authorities not to slash off maize fields of households headed by the elderly, women, children and those looking after the terminally ill.
“There is a struggle for rentals and food. My appeal to council is, please, do not slash off maize from the elderly’s fields,” he said.
Speaking during the food voucher distribution on Monday, the Japanese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Yonezo Fukuda, said many households were struggling to meet their basic food requirements and it was against that backdrop that the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) decided to introduce the voucher system.
“This food voucher distribution project is important for Zimbabwe at this particular time. Erratic rainfall patterns over the last few years have resulted in persistently poor harvests leading to food insecurity at the household level,” he said.