HARARE – Government is struggling to provide enough food to people facing starvation as the food deficit has reached alarming proportions, a government official said yesterday.
Presenting oral evidence before the parliamentary committee on Public Service and Social Welfare, Ngoni Masoka, permanent secretary in the Social Welfare ministry, said 400 000 families were desperately in need of food and government was working on a plan to feed them.
“We are looking at close to 300 000 to 400 000 families in need of food between January and February next year as they have been affected by drought and cannot afford to have food,” Masoka said.
“There is a critical food shortage in the country and government is trying to import food together with some NGOs. The grain coming in from Zambia is coming in slow, we have to plan for a major food deficit mitigation programme. The problem we are having is that there is no grain at Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots to support people in the food-for-work programme."
“We give them food vouchers to redeem at the GMB but there is no grain at the depots. The grain loan scheme has been hampered by lack of grain from GMB. We are now working with World Food Programme (WPF) to help the vulnerable families.”
Legislators, led by chairperson of the committee Edgar Chidavaenzi of Mazowe North, suggested that government allows non-governmental organisations and private individuals to import food from neighbouring countries like Zambia, from where the country is importing grain.
Zimbabwe is facing a severe food shortage with 2, 2 million people in need of food aid with some people in the drought ravaged areas living on wild fruits and competing with wild animals to access scarce food and water amid intensifying hunger.
Speaking at the same public hearing, Sydney Mhishi, director of Social Services, said government was not in a position to increase pensioners’ pay out amid concerns that the elderly were increasingly being destitute.
Government is paying pensioners $60 per month.
“As you know many people lost their savings during change over from Zimbabwe dollars to multiple currency era, but government tried its level best to pay out its pensions which is pegged at $60 compared to others who were working in the private sector who got nothing,” Mhishi said.
“At the present moment, government has not reached the level of increasing the pension.”