Zimbabwe Forcing Widows, Orphans to Work for Drought Relief Aid
“It’s unfair to see people living with disabilities and others working for food. Why should we work for the food when the government stipulates that we have to get the food freely?"
Widows, people living with disabilities, the elderly and orphans claim that they are being forced by state officials in Mutasa Central in Manicaland province, to work for food set aside for them by the Ministry of Social Welfare.
They also claim that at times state officials demand $5 payments for the food aid donated by non-governmental organizations or other countries to alleviate hunger in most parts of Zimbabwe.
The government has been receiving some food from non-governmental organizations and other nations following the declaration of a drought disaster in Zimbabwe a couple of months ago. At times it uses taxpayers’ money to source food from neighboring countries like Zambia.
However, some villagers, especially the targeted recipients that include widows, orphans, senior citizens and people living with disabilities, claim that they are not accessing the food aid.
One of the affected villagers is Tendai Samhembere’s 72 year-old mother, who is almost bedridden.
Smhembere says state officials are demanding that she should work for 5 hours for 15 days a month under the food for work program or pay $5 for a 50 kilogram bag of mealie meal.
“It is true they are required to work for at least 5 hours and for 15 days if they dream of getting the maize. The funny part of it is that she is almost bedridden and she is keeping orphans at the moment.”
Like Samhembere, most villagers strongly believe that they are working or paying for food that is supposed to be distributed for free to the elderly, orphans, people living with disabilities and widows.
Watsomba villager, Elish Terera, says it is disheartening to see the less-privileged members of society working for food.
“It’s unfair to see people living with disabilities and others working for food. Why should we work for the food when the government stipulates that we have to get the food freely? We do not need to work for it?”
Terera says the government of Zimbabwe should take care of the elderly, orphans, widows and people living with disabilities.
Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Mandi Chimene, and provincial administrator, Fungai Mbetsa, could not be reached for a comment as they were said to be busy attending various meetings.
But, Mutasa Central Member of the National Assembly, Trevor Saruwaka, says compelling such groups of people to work for food is unfortunate.
“Food for work is meant for those that are active but it is now being turned upside down by those that are distributing it. It has just been made absurd to us, as we cannot allow our elderly, the handicapped and orphans to work for their food they have to get for free. We will approach the minister responsible to solve this anomaly.”
At least four million people in Zimbabwe are facing hunger due to a devastating drought fueled by the El Nino phenomenon.