Of child-headed families

HARARE - When Shamiso Nsingo, 20’s mother left home for Gwanda Business Centre on a beer drinking spree and prostitution, she left five other children in the care of the youngster.

As for Shamiso, it was not only her five siblings she had to take care of, as she has two children of her own, bringing the total number of people under her care to seven.

“My drunkard mother is staying at Gwanda business centre and she does not help us in any way,” says Shamiso.

Musa Ndlovu, 60, Shamiso’s neighbour had no nice words for Shamiso’s mother. “I really do not know what is wrong with that woman. Even before she left for Gwanda, she would still spend all her time on beer drinking binges and was of no help at all.

“How do you leave a child like this to fend for the family? As you can see, she has been exposed to exploitation and at 20 she already has two kids from two different men who are not providing for their children.

“Right now the eight of them are staying in a one-roomed house. I wish someone could talk sense into her mother’s head.

All we know is that she is residing at Gwanda Business Centre where she is prostituting but she does not communicate with the family in any way.

“If it was not for this hardworking girl, this family would have been wiped out by hunger.”

Ndlovu said that the area is susceptible to droughts and even though people plant crops every season, they do not harvest anything because there is never enough rains.

“The major problem with this area is that even though people plant crops, they never harvest anything because of poor rains. People have to rely on interventions from organisations like World Vision, Care International and the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society.”

While most families living in the Gwanda North District are suffering from the drought, Shamiso’s predicament is worsened because she is not gainfully employed.

“I have no one to help me, I rely on casual jobs from fellow villagers to put a meal on the table.

“I can’t even afford to pay school fees for the two school going children because my major concern for now is to provide basic food supplies for them,” she said.

While Shamiso’s story is touching and heartrending to say the least, she is one of the many drought stricken villagers in Gwanda North district whose humanitarian situation is in dire straights.

Gwanda is generally a dry area and its inhabitants have to bear the brunt of the perennial droughts which continue to stalk them.

While some of the villagers are fortunate enough to have children working in Gwanda and Bulawayo or neighbouring South Africa; it is the child headed families with have no one to look up to that are most affected.

Some of the child-headed families are a result of the HIV and Aids scourge with others like Shamiso and her siblings being victims of negligent, irresponsible and pleasure seeking parents.

“Every day is a nightmare for me, but I have to be strong for the sake of my children and siblings. Now and then we get help from fellow villagers but it is never enough. The rains that fell during the 2013 to 2014 season have been a blessing to some of the locals but for me there is no difference.

“To start with, I spent much of the planting period working on other people’s fields for food and even if I had the time to plough we are just a poor family with no draught power.

“What it means is that the hunger cycle will continue stalking us and I wish I could get some form of support to start self-help projects that can assist the family,” said Shamiso.

For the better part of 2013, Shamiso and her siblings had to survive on one meal a day until humanitarian organisations came in with support through emergency food aid.

“Before the support from humanitarian organisations came through, we would survive on one meal a day. After their intervention our situation improved a little but we are hoping for sustainable support that can help us throughout the year and until the next planting and harvesting season.”

Shamiso is one of the many beneficiaries of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society’s $726 389 Food Security Emergency Appeal for
2013 - 2014 which sought to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable households in Gwanda.

The society’s support had a cash transfer component whereby beneficiary families would get a monthly allocation of $50 which would be redeemed for groceries. Other components of the intervention included the rehabilitation of 21 boreholes for safe water as well as establishment of 5 community gardens for nutritional support.

Siphiwethina Tshuma the society’s provincial manager said the intervention was one of their nationwide humanitarian programmes aimed at alleviating human suffering.

“This programme targeted 10 500 people in Gwanda North District and was both emergency and developmental so that while addressing the prevailing food insecurity, we also develop community-based solutions to the perennial droughts.

“Through the community gardens and agricultural training, we are hoping to provide all year round nutritional support for the beneficiaries and we are engaging our partners to provide more support for water lifting equipment that can guarantee all season farming.”

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