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Humanitarian programme reaches out to food insecure families

Thursday, April 5, 2018 - 12:07

They are 11 in their household. When hunger strikes, they are known in Bunganirwa Village of Ruwangwe Ward 4, Nyanga District, Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe to be the first to go to the village head’s homestead to ask for help. Pamela Nyamutambo (39), a widow who lives with her four children, also resides with six other extended members of her family. One of the members is Pamela’s mother who is terminally ill while the bulk of the members are children, most of whom are orphans.

Pamela is the bread winner for the large family which has been surviving on hook and crook every single day of their recent life. From the family of 11, at least 8 of the members are school going ages but only four are going to school.

“Two of my children are going to primary schools while the older ones who are 18 and 20 years stopped going to school at Grade 7. The two who are currently going to school had stopped going to school in 2016 due to hunger. They could not concentrate at school on an empty stomach and they dropped out of school. They only resumed school in 2017 when ActionAid introduced a cash transfer programme called Lean Season Assistance where my household was selected. They have food to eat before going to school now, “said Pamela.

Two of Pamela’s children going to school are 10 and 16 years and doing grades 3 and 7 respectively in 2018. “My 10-year old child should have been doing Grade 5 and the 16-year old should be in secondary. There are years they did not go to school, which resulted in them not moving in line with their ages. “

Asked if the one doing Grade 7 would proceed to secondary school in 2019, Pamela painted a gloomy picture. “She will stop at Grade 7 because I do not have money to pay for her secondary school. The older ones also stopped at Grade 7. Because of the level of poverty in my family, we are satisfied if they can just read and write,” said Pamela. Only two of Pamela’s sister’s children, instead of four are going to primary school and would still not proceed to secondary school, marking a vicious cycle of poverty for the family, whose biggest fear now is hunger as the current World Food Programme (WFP) supported Lean Season Assistance (LSA) programme being implemented by ActionAid came to an end in March 2018. In Nyanga ActionAid was transferring the money to community members through ECOCASH, a mobile phone money transfer system where 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 and buy food.

“I have been receiving US$110 per month since 0ctober 2017 sent on my phone through the ECOCASH facility under the LSA programme. I have been using the money to buy food. I stopped doing causal jobs and was concentrating working in my field. Unfortunately, our entire maize failed and we will harvest nothing in 2018. I will only have one-month food supplies after the end of the LSA programme in March 2018 and there-after, the village head will know that I will knock on his door to beg for food. We have been experiencing bad agricultural seasons in the past three years and causal jobs are limited, making it hard for the survival of my family which used to live on subsistence farming when seasons were good, ” Pamela said.

Pamela’s area is situated in the under agro-ecological rainfall region 4 whose rainfall pattern is generally low. With climatic changes being experienced in many parts of the Zimbabwe in recent years, even the little rains received in this area are scarce. There has been a fluctuation of severe droughts and floods in the area, making it difficult for Pamela to feed her big family in the recent years. 

The current LSA programme was providing cash through ECOCASH to 1943 households in Nyanga Districts affected by drought. A total of 13979 households in Makoni District also in Manicaland Province are receiving cash through a SCOPE swipe card digital facility which is being used by people assisted to buy food at local retailers. To promote fast, efficient and timely responses the programme in Makoni ActionAid was using the digital SCOPE technology where people assisted were registered using a SCOPE registration mobile phone application and recipients of the cash are provided with what are called SCOPE cards which are like swipe cards.

 In the 2016/2017 period, ActionAid provided humanitarian assistance to 525 000 people from 105 000 food insecure households in Manicaland Province using the ECOCASH facility. The organisation has been testing various technologies such as ECOCASH and SCOPE to improve the delivery of its humanitarian assistance programmes in the face of liquidity challenges facing Zimbabwe.