BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
Thousands of villagers in Mutoko yesterday were given United States dollars to help them fight hunger during this lean season.
The programme dubbed Lean Season Assistance (LSA) is being sponsored by the World Food Programme, USAID and United Kingdom’s DFID while the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) are the coordinators. A total of 32 189 villagers from 19 wards were each given US$9 to buy food. About 4 100 beneficiaries were children under the age of five years who were also given Super Cereal, a nutritious porridge.
One of the beneficiaries, Gretchen Katsande (48) from Ndemere village said the programme would help reduce hunger and address the problem of fluctuating food prices.
“We are happy that we have this programme in our area as it will go a long way in ensuring food for my family. I have a family of four and with $72 for two months I am certain that there will be enough food in the house. The shop owners are charging exorbitant prices on groceries, but with United States dollars we are assured of a fair price. I am grateful for the honour from the sponsors,” she said.
The programme has been going on since the onset of the lean season with each beneficiary getting $9 per month which is enough to meet approximately 80% of daily food requirements.
An estimated 5,3 million people are in dire need of food assistance with Mutoko district being one of the worst. The situation is set to worsen following the El Niño weather pattern that resulted in massive crop failure.
Ward 14 councillor Kuziva Majinga said this year there would be massive food shortages, hence the need for food assistance.
“This year is terrible because villagers did not get anything from the fields. We are grateful to have such kind of assistance in this area. We all need food, and villagers are happy about it,” she said.
The cash-based assistance is meant to offer villagers an opportunity to buy foodstuffs of their choice. Traditionally donors would provide aid in the form of maize. Villagers are, however, still getting food assistance in kind.