Zimbabwe: Food for the most needy

by Steve Matthews, World Vision Emergency Response Communications
September 26, 2002. Gwanda, Zimbabwe - First things first! Before World Vision could talk to fourteen-year-old Tradewell Moyo, he had to eat. He and his eleven-year-old sister Sibonginkosi hadn't consumed even a scrap of food in more than 24 hours. Their last meal, a handful of maize, donated by someone in their village came the day before. The young brother and sister have been living like this for the past six months. They go from hut to hut in their village, begging for food from people who are in almost as dire straits as they are.

But the situation changed on this day. Today was the day that Tradewell and 2,641 others in this drought stricken area of southern Zimbabwe received food, donated from the World Food Program and distributed by World Vision.

Tradewell and his sister are orphans. Their mother and father both passed away in 2000. There was no official diagnosis of AIDS, but there hardly ever is in this part of the world. Instead, there's an educated guess deciphered through questions answered in similar ways. "Yes, my father had a cough and lost a lot of weight. It was the same for my mother, but she also had large sores on her skin."

Unfortunately their story is not unusual as there are an estimated 11million AIDS orphans living in sub-Saharan Africa. The numbers are staggering and are expected to rise steadily in the next 20 years.

Parents die, often in a very close time span. Sometimes there is a grandmother or aunt to fill the void. More often there is not. Tradewell and Sibonginski have a grandmother, but she lives several kilometers away and is not well. She comes to visit, but only once every few months. The rest of the time, the siblings are left to fend for themselves.

They have an older sister, fifteen year old Ntombizodwa. She went away two weeks ago with hopes of panning for gold in a district 80 kilometers away. She hasn't been heard from since. Tradewell and Sibonginkosi hope she returns soon with enough precious metal to stock up on food for the traditional hunger-gap period which takes them to the final stretch before the next harvest in March next year. But will the drought stretch into another year?

The questions on everyone's mind are: Will it rain? If so, is there enough seed to plant? If so, are the people strong enough to tend the fields? And will there be enough food aid to keep everyone going?

Until a crop arises, NGO's such as World Vision, along with the primary food supplier, World Food Programme, are in their own dire situation to overcome a funding and commodities deficit that threatens a massive spread of humanity in seven southern African nations. Nearly 15-millon people rely on food aid in southern Africa. Without it, many will die.

At today's World Vision food distribution only the most needy families received rations. This included widows, the terminally ill, orphans, handicapped and elderly people, as well as female-headed households. Each was given enough corn flour and pinto beans to last about a month.

World Vision is working to provide food aid, agricultural recovery, and primary health care for 1.9-million people affected by the Southern Africa food emergency. World Vision has also ensured that Tradewell and his sister will continue to receive food aid during the crisis. In addition, World Vision is providing funds to allow Tradewell and Sibonginkosi to continue their studies.