BY REX MPHISA
BEITBRIDGE district has recorded at least 520 drought-related animal deaths while children in the district face stunted growth due to food shortages.
This comes at a time food distribution to desperate villagers countrywide is being hindered by a number of challenges, including fuel shortages.
Transporters are also demanding payment in foreign currency, with villagers being asked to fork out R25 or more per 50 kilogramme bag of relief food handouts
depending on the distance from Beitbridge town.
Food distribution points are, in some cases far apart and drought-impoverished beneficiaries have to trudge long distances to collect food, Beitbridge
government officials heard on Monday. A report submitted to the Beitbridge District Development Drought Mitigation Committee by the Department of Agritex said
520 livestock recently succumbed to effects of drought.
“We have recorded 520 animal deaths due to drought. The situation is bad and boreholes are drying up,” said Agritex official Alpha Mahlangu.
Grazing in the vast district is now very scarce with farmers resorting to supplementary feeding for their livestock and wildlife.
Mhlanga recommended reduction of animal stocks for the farmers to be able to cope.
While destocking is a looming prospect, it will derail government’s multi-million Command Agriculture restocking exercise launched last year.
Mellisa Zimuto, who heads the Beitbridge Social Welfare Department, said fuel shortages, restrictive distances for food collections points were some of the
challenges affecting smooth movement of food aid.
“We recommend that the government assists with transport and provides fuel to improve deliveries. We also need more distribution points,” Zimuto said.
Villagers are getting both small grains and maize while some agencies are bringing what are called food baskets.
Government on August 5 this year declared the drought a state of emergency opening up avenues for dozens of relief agencies to rescue villagers with food
handouts and animal supplementary feed.
A Ministry of Health and Child Care official Aleck Ncube told the same meeting that children under the age of five years were threatened by stunted growth.
School feeding programmes have thus been introduced in all primary schools, the meeting heard. Expecting mothers are receiving grain and cooking oil from the
World Food Programme.