ON Friday we carried a disturbing story about the neglected people living at informal settlements on the outskirts of Bulawayo who have borne the brunt of massive food shortages gripping Zimbabwe.
Residents of St Peter’s, Robert Sinyoka, Trenance, Killarney and Methodist told Southern Eye they only have a plate of isitshwala/sadza once a week after begging for maize meal because they cannot afford to buy food.
According to Pumula MP Albert Mhlanga and his Bulawayo South counterpart Thabitha Khumalo, most of the residents at these settlements are people who lost their jobs as a result of the ongoing company closures.
The majority of such workers also saw their savings being washed away by hyperinflation and the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar.
Hunger has gripped most parts of the country due to a poor harvest last year with estimates putting the number of people who would need food aid by March next year at 2,2 million.
However, these statistics only reflect the number of people facing starvation in rural areas not in urban centres.
Therefore, residents of places such as Killarney, St Peter’s, Robert Sinyoka and Trenance informal settlements tend to be left out of food relief programmes by government and donor agencies.
The Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association (BPRA) says a survey it carried out recently revealed that one in five families in the city faces dire food shortages.
BPRA says this is largely due to the collapse of the city’s industries and the HIV and Aids scourge which has left many households child-headed.
This calls for the government to change the way it deals with poverty alleviation to factor in the fact that it is no longer a rural phenomenon.
There are even larger families in urban areas that are going hungry as a result of the economic problems the country is facing.
It is high time government food relief programmes extended to urban areas.