“Government has neglected us during COVID-19 lockdown”

Source: 27 May 2020Health, Human Rights

Community members from areas such as Chimanimani, Makoni, Mashava, Wedza, Hurungwe and Muzarabani have highlighted that government has neglected them during the COVID-19 lockdown by not distributing food aid.

This came out during Heal Zimbabwe Virtual Information Centre meetings with community members from these areas. In areas such as Muzarabani, Chimanimani and Hurungwe, community members highlighted that they last received food aid from the Ministry of Social Welfare in March 2020.”We last received food aid from the Ministry of Social welfare in March. This year the harvest was not good to sustain us throughout the year. We received erratic rainfall and most of our crops had wilted then”, said one community member from Muzarabani. In Wedza, Mashava and Makoni community members highlighted that the food aid distribution done by the Ministry of Social welfare fell short in meeting people’s expectations.”As you know that during the lockdown, we were not allowed to work, it became difficult for us to engage in other off-farm activities that can help sustain us during the lockdown. We have seen the Ministry distributing food aid, but the food was not enough since everyone was eligible to receive the aid due to the lockdown” said another community member from Makoni. Community members highlighted that they would have expected government to distribute enough food aid for everyone since the lockdown has greatly affected rural communities.

Other issues that came out during discussions include the hike in prices of basic commodities such as cooking oil, mealie meal and sugar. In some areas unscrupulous business people have taken advantage of the travel restrictions to towns by community members and have since pegged their prices in foreign currency. Some shops in areas such as Makoni, Muzarabani and Chimanimani some shops are charging as much as US$4 for a 2litres of cooking oil, a 10kg bag of mealie meal US$6 while a 2kg packed of sugar costs US$4.Some business people who are part of the virtual centre meetings highlighted that the hike was necessitated by the increase in bribes by most police officers manning roadblocks into towns. In some cases, he said, they are forced to pay more just to pass and this leaves them with no option but to hike prices so as to recover profits.

As part of way forward, communities set up committees that were tasked to engage local leaders such as Councillors, Traditional leaders and Legislators. Community members noted these leaders would be tasked to lobby government so as to increase food aid distribution in the areas. The virtual Information centers by Heal Zimbabwe are an initiative meant to create platforms for communities during COVID-19 lockdown where they can discuss and collectively identify ways through which they can proffer solutions to problems in the local communities. The information centres also equip communities with relevant information on Covid 19 by bringing in specialised personnel such as health workers, Ministry representatives among others to educate communities on COVID 19.Virtual information centres are also platforms that facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.

Source: Heal Zimbabwe