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Spectre of a donor-funded Christmas

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AS MANY across the globe get into the swing of Christmas festivities, millions of people in Zimbabwe living on less than US$1 a day are turning to donor agencies and well-wishers for survival.

JONATHAN MBIRIYAMVEKA

Zimbabwe’s economy tanked this year with inflation surpassing the 700% mark, the highest since the authorities were forced by shaky fundamentals to reintroduce the United States dollar.

According to United Nations agencies, nearly half the country’s population was in need of food aid after experiencing two successive droughts.

An economic implosion also blighted the prospects of a cheerful Christmas holiday as prices shot beyond the roof.

The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed everyday life across the globe,  with the poor being the hardest hit through the erosion of already low incomes.

This year, it appears there are no Christmas festivities due to government-imposed regulations to reduce the spread of the pandemic.

The restrictions, which were in full swing early this year, have, according to labour unions, resulted in massive job cuts, throwing thousands into poverty.

Despite repeated attempts by the government to paint a rosy picture of economic recovery ostensibly anchored on the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, many are yet to reconcile this with reality.

But since you cannot look a gift horse in the mouth, poverty-stricken Zimbabweans are happily accepting the handouts they get from aid agencies such as the US Agency for International Development.

 However, the festivities this year are generally subdued.

Marvis Dube, an elderly lady from Matobo district in Matabeleland province, counts herself lucky to have food on the table after she received monthly rations from the philanthropic arm of the United States government which partnered the Catholic Relief Services.

Thanks to an electronic voucher with a face value of US$45, she can now get the basics. The cost of living, as measured by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat), rose by 4.4% to ZW$18 750 (about US$150 on the parallel market) in October at a time several workers had lost their jobs following the Covid-19 outbreak.

According to the USAID Facebook page, Dube used her voucher to purchase a 50kg bag of mealie-meal, 8 litres of vegetable oil, and 5 kilogrammes of super beans.

Dube supplements this with vegetables from her garden, including leafy greens, tomatoes and onions and milk from her goats.

“And as the New Year approaches, two million Zimbabweans received soap and potentially life-saving messages on #COVID19, #GBV, child protection and malnutrition.

USAID partnered with @GoalZimbabwe and UNICEF in a campaign that employed various communication tools including mobile trucks to disseminate information on hygiene practices and COVID-19 prevention,” USAID posted on its Facebook page.

Edible oil producer ZimGold Givers recently donated 25 cases of cooking oil as it engages different community programmes that help benefit the masses.

As part of its projects, ZimGold Givers, the company identifies community heroes, be they individuals or organisations that are striving to uplift their communities and this year they chose the Touching Lives Foundation.

“We assist them with resources to fulfil their community objectives. This year, with the Covid-19 pandemic, we identified heroes that are assisting vulnerable families. Touching Lives Africa is our second beneficiary out of the five we are targeting to help, Lesley Gibbons,” Pure Oils head of marketing and public relations, said..

“The first donation went to Lynde Francis Trust who is still distributing groceries to the Chitungwiza community.  Touching Lives Africa was founded by Rabison Shumba, who is famous for the fundraising for sanitary wear for girls under the PadShopper project, among other initiatives.”

She said the company applauds the role of Shumba and his team in assisting vulnerable members of the community.

“We, therefore, found it prudent to contribute to their good cause. We are donating to them cooking oil which they will add to the food hampers that they will distribute to needy families in the communities they serve,” she said.

 Over and above this, ZimGold Givers also sent relief to Cyclone Idai survivors last year as well as hosting luncheons for underprivileged children.

Apart from the corporates, some prominent Zimbabweans have also been helpful to the poor and vulnerable. Hip-hop prodigy — King 98 and his Tanzanian counterpart Juma Jux — ensured that Raymond Nyarufero is happy this Christmas after they gifted him with some groceries as well as US$205 spending money.

The two artists, who have been busy recording and touring Harare, took time off their busy schedule on Monday to handover some goodies including meat and mealie-meal ahead of the holidays in Harare’s Warren Park suburb.

Raymond’s mother, Victoria Ngwende, was also thankful to the duo for assisting the family during the festive season. She said she was heavily indebted.

The 18-year-old Raymond suffers from cerebral palsy and, according to his mother, it was not easy to raise him to his current age.

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