Covid-19: Govt struggles to cushion vulnerable groups

Bulawayo Provincial Social welfare officer Fanwell Dzoma has revealed that the inconsistency in the disbursements of funds to cushion the informal sector and the vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 lockdown is the major challenge faced by the social welfare department.

This came out during an online reform indaba meeting, Thursday, hosted by Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) on transparency and accountability of Covid-19 resources.

Giving his presentation during the meeting, Dzoma said resource constraints has been a major challenge.

“The major gap that is there now in terms of informal sector cash transfer, is the inconsistent payment that is our major challenge, these payments are made at irregular times yet they are supposed to be on a monthly basis but from our experience, it was paid after three, four or so months so this is the major gap that we noted in the informal sector cash transfer that was meant to cushion people in the informal sector,” said Dzoma.

He said over 13 000 people in Bulawayo in the informal sector had registered for cushioning allowances.

“The database of informal sector workers affected by covid-19 was about 309 146 people with a total amount of 189 having been disbursed but for this one it’s a national figure but as for Bulawayo those that registered in our database for assistance was 13 245 people, so those are the numbers that we had for informal sector for assistance.

“The registration is ongoing because the covid-19 pandemic is still with us so registration is still ongoing at our two district offices, those who didn’t get registered they have to approach our district offices,” he said.

He added that the department is also faced with a shortage of staff which at times results in the department taking long to reach out to the needy.

“During the first phase of covid-19 the department was also manning three quarantine centers, so there was a big gap in terms of our staff to attend to the various needy people,” he said.

Dzoma also noted that a number of registered individuals did not collect their NetOne sim cards.

“Those who had registered previously and have not yet been issued with net one line are encouraged to approach the district social development officers to get their lines. What was happening during the registration was when we get information from the ministry of women affairs that data was forwarded to head office and then the head office was working with net one.

“For now, we have realised that quite a number of people have not yet collected some of their line so meaning that any money that is deposited they are not able to access it but they can liaise with ministry of women affairs because they know some of the people who registered so that through their ward workers, they can also inform those individuals so that they can collect their lines and be able to collect their money,” he said.

Meanwhile, the social welfare officer added that the cash for cereal program which is also aimed at cushioning vulnerable groups such as the disabled, child headed families, people with chronic illnesses and people with high dependence ration groups in urban areas mainly Bulawayo and Harare during the Covid-19 lockdown has also been affected.

“The program replaced the drought relief grain distribution; people are now given cash instead of the grain. In Bulawayo a total of 16 348 households are on our register for the cash for cereal and these 16 348 households were paid for the months of October and November 2020,” he said.

“Like I said previously there is inconsistency payment for these beneficiaries, it is supposed to be on a monthly basis payment just like what was done when it was grain, they were given on a monthly basis, so the same should apply for cash for cereals but unfortunately this is not what is happening maybe because of cash challenges as highlighted earlier.

“The cash paid for each household were reviewed from ZWL$300 because when the program started it was ZWL$300 per household, they it was raised to ZWL$800 per household with effect from December 1 2020, but now as at January 2021 it has been reviewed to ZWL$1 500.”

Dzoma added: “You will realize that when the program initially started the ZWL$300 or ZWL$800 was far less than what was anticipated, this was very inadequate for people to actually sustain themselves, from my own observation I think the ZWL$1 500 is also still far and inadequate for the vulnerable to be able to cushion themselves during this time of Covid.”

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)

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