Zimbabwe: Binga families depending on food aid, farmers waiting for rain

JOHANNESBURG, 21 January (IRIN) - Almost all the 150,000 people living in Zimbabwe's western district of Binga are receiving food aid while the community's farmers anxiously wait for rains to save their life-saving crops, Save the Children Fund (SCF) told IRIN on Monday.
"One of our concerns is that there might not be crops because the rains have been bad," SCF Zimbabwe director Chris McIvor said.

He said SCF, which in November received government permission to resume activities in the country, recently conducted an assessment and noted an increased disposal of household assets to raise cash for food, children being taken out of school, and the percentage of wild food in daily diets increasing.

SCF was currently providing food aid to 125,000 people in the region and had decided to provide for individuals instead of households because of the increased need and to prevent individual beneficiaries from feeling compelled to share their ration with the rest of their equally weakened family.

Binga is situated in an area of the country that frequently suffers from adverse weather conditions but a succession of bad weather, economic shocks - inflation was pegged at 198 percent in December - and HIV/AIDS had worn families down, McIvor said.

The organisation had also extended its programme to about 6,500 people living and working at an informal chrome mine in Zvimba, north west of Harare and to 1,000 people in Nyaminyami, in the northern part of the Zambezi valley

One reprieve for the struggling communities was that SCF did not anticipate distribution delays due to the countrywide fuel shortages.

"We are able to purchase fuel with foreign exchange and have reserves in other areas. Yes, we have had problems, but we have maintained our pipeline," McIvor said.

Ironically, the lack of rain was making distribution easier on the dry roads but the state-controlled Grain Marketing Board, which delivers supplies for sale to the public, was having transport constraints, McIvor added.


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