'Crying from hunger': Zimbabwe drought hits children

AFP , Wednesday 5 Jun 2024

Mother of four Laiwa Musenza is already reliant on aid from a local NGO to feed her family and Zimbabwe's drought is only getting deeper.

A man fetches water from a pond to water his calves in Matabeleland, southwestern Zimbabwe, May, 2024. AFP


"Imagine hearing your children crying from hunger when you cannot do anything about it," the 54-year-old said.

At a farm on the outskirts of the capital Harare, a queue of children, some as young as three, and a small group of elderly gather near two large cooking pans.

A volunteer calls out names from a register and, plate in hand, the hungry take turns to step forward and receive small portions of macaroni and a soybean stew.

For most, it is their main, perhaps only, meal of the day.

The makeshift feeding station was the idea of Samantha Muzoroki and is the newest of five similar centres run by the immigration lawyer's Kuchengetana Trust.

It was started four months ago after parents at the Karibone Farm compound complained children were going to bed hungry as a result of crop failure in most parts of Zimbabwe.

Residents at Karibone earn a living from working part-time at neighbouring farms, but this year the farms had no jobs to offer because of the drought.

 Budget halved 

"We could only manage one meal per day. For those of us with young children it was particularly tough," Musenza told AFP.

Kuchengetana, which means "looking after each other", provides two meals to an average of 1,500 children a day at its five kitchens.

But Muzoroki fears that her organisation may be overwhelmed as the drought continues.

"Our movement is donor driven. We have had a huge dip in donations. We are receiving $400 every three months, down from $600 which is way below half of our budget," Muzoroki said.

"We try to make sure that every day everyone we cater for is able to get at least a meal a day if we fail to give them two meals.

"The drought is definitely going to affect us in many ways and I hope and pray that it doesn't lead us to closing any of our centres."

Zimbabwe is only one of a band of countries in Southern Africa experiencing food shortages due to the drought, which has been exacerbated by the El Nino climate phenomenon.

Last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a state of disaster, saying the country needed at least two billion dollars to respond to the drought.

At least 7.6 million people, almost half of the population, is in need of aid.

Skipping meals 

The United Nations has appealed for $429.3 million to help people affected by the drought.

UNICEF also launched an urgent $84.9-million appeal last month "to provide lifesaving interventions... amidst a complex humanitarian crisis exacerbated by water and food shortages".

"Zimbabwe has been experiencing drought conditions now for a few months with failing harvests in key areas of agricultural production," UNICEF's Nicholas Alipui said.

Additionally, it is "experiencing overlapping emergencies through a cholera outbreak and we also have a situation of polio in the country", Alipui added.

In Epworth, a semi formal settlement east of the capital, families are skipping meals, while children are missing school as families struggle to find food.

"We are having two meals a day instead of three," said Letwin Mhande, a 36-year-old mother of four, whose fruit and vegetable store is struggling to find stock and customers.

"We eat once at midday and once before going to bed, sometimes we don't have food to give the children and they miss school."

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