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Food Insecure Zimbabweans Turn to Lockdown Relief Kitchens

People queue outside the house of Samantha Shingirai Murozoki, waiting to be served porridge for breakfast in Seke, about 30 minutes southeast of Harare. The suburb has one of the highest number of cases of food insecurity, according to official data of those affected by the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

Samantha Shingirai Murozoki runs a relief kitchen for people affected by the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown in Seke district in Zimbabwe, Aug. 21, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

Murozoki said after being unable to return to South Africa when the lockdown started, she decided to help those struggling with hunger. The 35-year-old woman now runs a relief kitchen that provides two daily meals to those unable to feed themselves in the neighborhood where she grew up.

“I just want people to go to bed with a satiated tummy. That’s all I want," Murozoki said. "I want — with a focus in the future, I want self-sustenance, I want a population that says in the event of a contagion or a disaster, we can be able to pick ourselves up because we have gained skills, maybe to make soap or cooking products, (or anything) that gives them an upper hand when it comes to poverty. So social developments are what I have in plan.”

She started the project with her own food, then well-wishers chipped in and Murozoki now feeds about 3,000 people daily. Since the lockdown, Murozoki said she wants to train people to start income-generating projects.

Fifty-three year old Shepherd Mbuwa an informal trader walks daily more than 30 minutes twice a day to get food for his three kids at Samantha’s kitchen, (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

Shepherd Mbuwa is one of the beneficiaries. The 53-year-old informal trader walks 30 minutes twice a day to get food to look after his three children. He said he has been expecting government assistance.

“Things have been tough," Mbuwa said. "Samantha, when I heard of her, I thought, maybe it is a joke. When I came, it was a reality. Every day I have been coming here. Things have been very tough. When lockdown started, we thought the government was going to chip in, to give us assistance. But the government not been forthcoming. Up to now, nothing has been done.”

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said the government is aware that informal traders, who constitute the bulk of Zimbabwe’s employment, are being affected by the lockdown which was imposed in late March to contain the pandemic.

Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe finance minister says the government is aware that informal traders are being affected by the lockdown which was imposed in late March to contain the coronavirus pandemic. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

“We are not short of funds in terms of the support to the vulnerable Zimbabweans," Ncube said. "In fact, at the moment, we are waiting to reach our target of one million people who are vulnerable. We are appealing for people to come forward and register with social welfare because we have the budget.”

Maria Paruwe is one of those benefiting from a $3-a-month grant from the government. The 66-year-old widow depends on Samantha’s relief kitchen to make up the gap.

“We get funds from the ministry of social welfare, 300 bond, Paruwe said. "But it’s not enough to buy 10 kilograms of corn meal. That’s why you see me here.”

Corn meal is used to make Zimbabwe’s staple food — a thick porridge known as sadza or isitswala, which is served with a relish.

Sixty-six year-old Maria Paruwe is one of those benefiting from the $3-a-month government grant. She depends on Samantha’s relief kitchen. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)