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COVID-19 induced lockdowns exposed Hwange villagers to the virus as they had to walk long distances in search of food. Image by Shutterstock
In Hwange, villagers had to leave their homes in search of food and temporary jobs to feed their families despite lockdown restrictions. They blame climate change for worsening the situation.
HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Innocent Shoko, a villager in Hwange, remembers the scary trips he had to make in search of food and jobs during the COVID-19 induced lockdown which lasted for 2 years.
Shoko says due to low rainfall induced by changes in climate, he had harvested less than a tonne of maize to feed his family.
“That has been the most painful time of my life. I had harvested less than a tonne of maize to feed my family,” Shoko says. “I had to risk going to areas like Gwayi in search of food.”
Hwange is in agro ecological region four characterised by high temperatures and low rainfall. The conditions, coupled with climate change, have brought a humanitarian crisis in the district’s outlying areas.
Low rainfall resulting in poor harvests has for years left villagers in Hwange food insecure.
The Global Climate Change Alliance plus Initiative says, in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe included, the disease burden, lockdowns and other restrictions associated with COVID-19 disrupted food value chains at both production and marketing levels.
The restrictions in movement during COVID-19 lockdowns exposed villagers to COVID-19 as they had to travel or walk to nearby villages and towns in search of temporary jobs or food. Without an alternative for safety some contracted the virus.
“It was a tough time for the rest of the village. Without much harvest, our hope was the government and we received nothing even in the middle of the pandemic (COVID-19).”
Thobekile Sibanda, a Hwange villager
“They must implement policies to the letter lest we remain vulnerable and a basket and charity case to the donors.”
During the COVID-19 lockdown the central government announced that it will give vulnerable communities food hampers and cash. Obvious Ncube from Mashala Top village, says, unfortunately they suffered the worst from both COVID-19 and climate change but no government assistance came their way.
Section 30 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe obligates the State to take all practical measures, within the limits of the resources available, to provide social security and social care to those in need. Zimbabwe has a broad array of statutes, policies, and guidelines which further give effect to this Constitutional provision. Such acts of parliament include Social Welfare Assistance Act (Chapter 17:06), Disabled Persons Act (Chapter 17:10), Older Persons Act, Children’s Act and the Education Amendment Act.
According to the National Social Protection Policy Framework (NSPPF) of 2016, social protection is a set of interventions proposed to reduce social and economic risk and vulnerability, and alleviate poverty and deprivation. These interventions range from social assistance, social insurance, labour market interventions, and programmes aimed at supporting livelihoods and building resilience.
UNICEF Zimbabwe says, Zimbabwe spends only 0.4% of GDP on social protection, which is far less than 1.5% of GDP regional average for Sub-Saharan Africa. Increasing social protection spending to at least the level of its regional comparators is critical to reduce the vulnerability and deprivation among the poorest, the UN body adds.
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