By Habakkuk Trust
The prevailing harsh economic conditions coupled with the devastating impacts of climate change have plunged communities into the doldrums of vulnerability. Growing food insecurity is the norm in most rural areas as the Government’s Food Insecurity Mitigation Program seems to fail to cope with increasing vulnerability in rural households.
The situation which has since become dire has forced rural communities in border lying areas such as Bulilima to cross the border into Botswana to look for menial jobs. Using illegal entry points, desperate villagers cross into the neighboring country in the morning and return in the evening running the risk of being potential Covid-19 trans-border couriers.
Habakkuk Trust communities in Bulilima Ward 10 have raised concerns that the unregulated movement of citizens between Zimbabwe and Botswana will likely fuel Covid-19 transmission. “We are living in fear of contracting coronavirus from our fellow villagers who criss-cross between our ward and Botswana,” said a community member who requested confidentiality.
Villagers have also lamented blatant defiance by transport operators who are accused of ferrying border jumpers reportedly coming from as far as Bulawayo. This development comes after local leaders successfully stopped Kombis from plying the Bulawayo-Bambadzi route in line with Covid-19 regulations which place a ban on public transport operators.
Bulilima District is a drought-prone area that receives inadequate rainfall for sustainable agriculture. Thus most households rely on diaspora grocery and cash remittances which are then augmented by meager harvests.
The closure of borders and the perennial problem of marauding herds of elephants that have depleted harvests has worsened the plight of villagers, thus forcing them to engage in risky behavior. Covid-19 has added another layer of vulnerability to already impoverished communities a development that requires collaborative action between government and relevant stakeholders.
The issue of transnational Covid-19 transmission through illegal returnees made headlines in recent weeks after Habakkuk Trust Community Action Teams from Matabeleland South raised alarm on the matter.