As Zimbabwe faces one of its worst hunger year, women have taken much of the burden as they fight to feed their children. Acute food shortages in the country’s urban and rural villages have resulted in people going for days on end without food while some villagers have resorted to eating tree roots and wild fruits to survive.
Three quarters of Zimbabweans, about six million face starvation in this inflation ridden country.
Schools have virtually shut down because both the teachers and pupils are hungry and cannot manage to walk to and from school. The universities remain closed because they cannot afford to feed students. Boarding schools for secondary and high education have sent children back home. This year’s examinations have been shelved owing to the disruption of classes across the whole education system.
With children not going to school anymore, it is the women, as mothers who have to see that the family is fed.
And the government has not helped either. Over the last six months non-governmental organizations which used to feed the hungry were barred from operating after government accused them of campaigning for the opposition political parties.
The non-governmental organizations have also been barred from helping those with HIV/Aids, who need the food and the much needed HIV/Aids vaccines.
Across the country the number of starvation-related deaths continues to mount.
In big hospitals there is no food for the sick. Relatives of the sick are asked to bring food and those who can’t afford risk death. The health sector itself is on its knees as doctors and nurses continuously refuse to work in such environs.
Drinking water is one of the biggest problems for those living in urban areas. Some areas can go for months without a single drop of water as local authorities fail to raise enough forex to buy chemicals to treat water. And when the water returns, it is so smelly and tasteless. A cholera disease outbreak has been reported throughout the country because of the untreated water.
Inflation is in millions (251 million percent as of July) and prizes of food continue to rise every minute. For the poor it is even worse as food can only be easily accessed by those who have the US$. The government has licensed shops to sell their goods in US$. While the shops for the US$ have food in their selves, those selling in the local Zimbabwean currency are completely empty.
For those using the local currency, it is a nightmare to get money from the bank as the country faces a severe money shortage. The money one is allowed to withdraw each day is not enough to buy a day’s basic breakfast of bread, milk and tea.
A number of women have now resorted to cross-border deals where they travel to neighboring countries like South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique in search of food. But not without any challenges. Some women while in these neighboring countries have resorted to the oldest profession for survival. They sell their bodies so they can raise enough cash to buy food which they then bring back to Zimbabwe.
So dire is the situation that back home in Zimbabwe young girls have been forced to turn to prostitution so as to help supplement their families’ food budgets.
And the rainy season is just approaching now, but the government is not at all prepared to provide the seed and fertilizers for farmers. There is no forex.
Food shortages began in 2000 as government forcibly took over thousands of productive farms which they shared among landless people. But without infrastructural backing and clear policies to crop production, food shortages have hit the country which used to be called “Africa’s breadbasket“.
Most of the productive farms have been shared among government cronies who have no idea about farming. The land remain idle.
Corruption within government has also added to the chaos on the farms. Farm inputs and equipment meant for the farming programme have found its way to the black market.
At the moment all hopes have been pinned on a proposed new all inclusive government between the ruling government and opposition political parties.
It is the hope of the nation that the new government will urgently address the food shortages.
By Rhodah Mashavave
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