A devastating drought has ravaged Matabeleland, with some people in both rural and urban areas no longer affording the usual three meals per day.
The situation is compounded by poor rains received in the past cropping season which affected crop yields for many and a deepening economic crisis.
According to the latest Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) report, about 5, 5 million people in the country’s rural areas are food insecure with Matabeleland North among the worst affected provinces.
The government has already begun grain imports from Tanzania to mitigate the worsening drought but the impact of that is yet to be felt.
Chief Siansali of Binga, told CITE the drought was worsening in the district.
“The drought is now widespread although there are interventions by NGOs and the government through the Department of Social Welfare,” he said.
The chief said under the interventions, selected elderly in the district are getting a 50kg bag of mealie-meal per month.
“These interventions are however not exhaustive because almost everyone is in need of food aid; we are all equally affected by the drought,” said the traditional leader.
“Our major concern now is those people who are not part of both the Social Welfare and NGOs food aid programmes. With the way, things are, most people can no longer afford three meals a day as they now have to budget for the next day. However, I have not received any report of people starving to death.”
He added that the livestock was also under threat with most pastures and water sources having dried-up.
Chief Nyangazonke of Matobo, Matabeleland South, said the drought situation in the district had become dire.
“The situation is very bad and cattle are dying; that is our wealth as African people,” he said.
“Some people have no food at all and if the government does not intervene to ensure the upcoming farming season succeeds, there will be disaster again next year. The government will have a burden to source food for the people again.”
He said it was disheartening to note that the drought had become a yearly occurrence, adding more needs to be done to combat it in future.
“Is it because we are failing to manage a yearly calendar, or what?” he queried.
“The cropping season is upon us but there are no signs to show that everything is ready. We want to see Agritex people on the ground, but things are not shaping up; they are not balancing. The Ministry of Agriculture should now be meeting with farmers.”
The traditional leader said while some humanitarian organisations were chipping in with food aid that was not enough for everyone.
He was however quick to say donations were taking away people’s dignity, adding Zimbabwe should work hard in future to ensure the nation is food secure.
“Can you imagine a father-in-law and daughter-in-law in the same queue for food? That is very bad and it takes away our dignity,” he said.
Bulawayo, Matabeleland’s commercial capital, is also not spared from hunger.
Ward 7 councillor, Shadreck Sibanda, said in Makokoba, the drought could be even worse than in rural areas.
“Things are not well in Makokoba,” said Sibanda.
“As you know that is an area for the elderly some of whom are living with grandchildren who are sent from South Africa. Some of the families are now surviving on one meal a day. Some just eat isitshwala with green vegetables without cooking oil,” he said.
Sibanda said the aid from some organisations was not something to write home about.