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Cash transfers help orphaned family of six cope with drought

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - 12:09

Born in 1998 to a family of six children in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, life has never been easy for Jimmy Nyambuya. Jimmy had to grow up fast at the age of 12 when he lost both his parents and had to provide for his five siblings.  But now with the help of ActionAid, Jimmy and his siblings are now benefitting from a Lean Season Assistance (LSA) programme implemented using cash transfers in Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe.

Jimmy’s village is one of the areas heavily affected by the El-Niño induced drought, which has left over 4, 1 million people across Zimbabwe without enough food to eat.   ActionAid is implementing the programme with support from the World Food Programme. Together they are giving help in the form of cash transfers which can then be used by families to buy basic essentials like maize meal and cooking oil.

Jimmy’s family is one of the numerous child headed families benefiting from the cash transfer programme. Jimmy tells how difficult life has been for him and his siblings since they became orphans. His three younger brothers have now left home to work in diamond mines to support the family, leaving Jimmy to look after his two sisters aged 12 and 15 years. Child labour among the poorest families is commonplace in many parts of Zimbabwe, particularly when families face the additional strain of crises such as the current drought.

“Life has been hard since both our parents died the same day from a bus accident in 2010.  No one offered to help so it was down to me to take care and provide for my sisters. Our parents did not have much money and when they died they went with all they had.  It was then that I realized I had to grow up faster and start providing for the family,” said Jimmy, bright-eyed despite the misfortunes in his life.

“My other three younger brothers have left for the mines because they could not stomach the way we were suffering.  Many days we would have nothing to eat and we all dropped out of school.

Our family was fortunate enough to be selected as beneficiaries of the food assistance programme offered by ActionAid. We received $21 in December 2016 and that was the happiest day because none of us have ever had so much money. The money was transferred by ActionAid on our phones.  To have it in your phone and know its yours is uplifting, said a happy Jimmy.

ActionAid is transferring the money to community members through Ecocash, a mobile phone money transfer system. The electronic money transfers are convenient for communities as they are given the choice to decide how, and on what, the money should be used.  Electronic cash is sent via a code in a text message to the recipients’ mobile phones.  They then take the code to a local money agent to redeem the cash.

The cash transfers have transformed for Jimmy and his family. “We would normally go to school on an empty stomach before we dropped out. We would only survive by providing casual labor and gifts from neighbors and well-wishers which was not enough. Now we have bought flour, cooking oil, maize meal and beans. We can now afford to have a decent breakfast and supper,” said Jimmy

Jimmy’s concerns are now turning to how they will survive after March 2017 when the cash transfer programme ends. ActionAid is providing humanitarian assistance to 525 000 people from 105 000 food insecure households in Manicaland Province.  The programme started in September 2016 and will see beneficiaries receiving entitlements from the month of October 2016 until March 2017.

Beyond March 2017, ActionAid continues to implement various drought resilient programmes targeting child-headed households like Jimmy’s family and other vulnerable households of mainly women in Manicaland, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and Manicaland Provinces of Zimbabwe. Other El-Niño response programmes being implemented by ActionAid in 2017 include providing nutrition supplements to breastfeeding mothers and children under five years old.