By Dumisani Nkomo (CEO, Habakkuk Trust)
The extension of the lockdown is reportedly exposing more community members in various parts of rural Matabeleland to deepening food insecurity and hunger.
While most communities appreciated the government’s decision to extend the lockdown as a way of preventing the spread of COVID-19, some have raised concerns over access to food and basic commodities in the next fourteen days.
Community members from different parts of Matabeleland who spoke to Habakkuk Trust explained that they have since plunged into vulnerability as they have run out of food stocked during the initial phase of the lockdown.
A Habakkuk Trust Community Advocacy Action Team member in Gwanda Ward 2 urged the government to increase food aid distribution in their communities as citizens are already starving. He said although the department of Social Welfare distributed food aid during the first lockdown, only 45 people received in the whole ward. Youths in Gwanda have called the government to prioritize the young people during the lockdown, as some may resort to crime for survival.
The same sentiments were expressed in Umzingwane Ward 5 and 8 where community members also urged the government to ensure subsidized mealie meal is made available in rural communities. In Matobo, community members lamented the lack of enforcement of lockdown measures especially in areas where there are mopani worms. Hundreds of people from different areas have reportedly flocked the areas to harvest mopani worms; to irk a living out of the delicacy while exposing many to Coronavirus infection.
The closure of borders has also affected those dependent on diaspora remittances and other essentials such as medication. A community member in Mangwe Ward 1 stated that her main worry was how they will send medication to their children based in neighboring countries. Some people in South Africa and Botswana on ARVs were dependent on their relatives in the country to collect and send them medication regularly and the extension of lockdown and the continued closure of borders will result in some of them defaulting.
Other community members in Insiza District were worried about the opening of the mining sector citing that most mines do not have personal protective clothing. This will not only expose miners to health infections but will also expose Insiza community at large.
Habakkuk Trust continues to call for the speeding up of provision of food aid to vulnerable groups and ensure subsidized mealie meal is available even in rural communities.