HARARE - Sungura musician and Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) ambassador Alick Macheso has said the magnitude of poverty and hunger he has witnessed over the past months in drought-prone and impoverished rural communities has left him in tears.
Macheso said there is unimaginable hunger among rural villagers in Chivi, Chipinge, Gwanda, Muzarabani and Mudzi where he and the society have delivered emergency food supplies.
And he believes ZRCS has a lot of work ahead to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
“Sadza is gold in these areas and I get hurt when I see restaurants and other people throwing away food,” the top musician told the Daily News.
“I was in Chivi recently and families there did not even plough and for those who did, everything has wilted under the scorching heat.”
He said apart from Chivi, he has been to Muzarabani and Mudzi. What he witnessed there was heart-breaking, he said.
“Schoolchildren are surviving on wild fruits and water, but the problem is that the wells are drying up as well.
“In Chipinge, villagers were selling their cattle for as little as $20 and most times the cattle are just bony to an extent that what you buy is just the skin.”
He said some areas in Mberengwa, especially Mataga, he witnessed cattle dying in numbers.
“They used to feed the cattle on Mopane tree leaves but these have also dried and it is catastrophic to say the least.”
The ZRCS ambassador implored well-wishers to give to the Red Cross who will in turn pass on whatever donation to the affected areas.
“Let us have a good heart as Zimbabweans because there is hunger out there. I have cried a lot on these trips because what I have seen is heart-rending.
“Our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers in these remote and often hidden areas are dying in silence, dying of hunger.”
He said, what people in the urban areas often regard as old will always be new to someone.
“I know we throw away a lot of clothes, shoes and other necessities saying they are old, but believe me, these things are new in other parts of the world. I am witness to the poverty devouring our less-privileged communities.
“This is an emergency and I am glad that Red Cross is going to these places and they are taking me along to witness and help mobilise resources.
“I am privileged to be working for a cause. Zimbabwe Red Cross Society has opened my doors to a calling that I treasure, this calling to help the needy, the desperate and the hungry.”
The sungura ace hit out at children who have abandoned their parents back in the villages.
“We have most of the well-to-do children forgetting their parents back in the villages who are struggling to make ends meet; especially we the sons are the culprits as we abandon our parents and relatives back home.
“I urge those with extra to help the less-privileged. Even if one is not your relative, you need to help if you have the capacity.”
Macheso said he and Red Cross will soon embark on provincial musicals meant to raise funds for these communities.
“We want to raise money, if we can manage to buy 10 bags of beans or maize, then I would be happy. We have to do something as a nation.”
Macheso said water was a precious commodity and people in Chivi can testify to this.
“When we visited Chivi with the Zimbabwe Red Cross, we found that there were 350 boreholes which were all not working and we put them up. In addition, we managed to sink 170 new ones.
“I was there recently and was happy to see people smiling because they had water. Water is life and I am saying such efforts by the ZRCS cannot just go unnoticed and I am happy to be part of that humanitarian family.”
Something disturbing has caught his eye though.
“As we penetrated some of these rural areas, we discovered the need for mobile clinics as hospitals there are far from communities, some walk more than 30km to get to the nearest clinic.
“I am saying to ZRCS, instead of you having a clinic in Harare where there are many hospitals, why don’t you channel those resources and manpower to these marginalised communities and provide just the basic health care through mobile clinics. Why not turn trucks into mobile clinics and help these desperate communities?
“Pregnant mothers and their unborn babies are dying before reaching clinics while being transported in wheel barrows and scotch-carts. It is sad.”
ZRCS has conferred humanitarian ambassador status on Macheso in recognition of his philanthropic activities over the years.
“I believe this honour goes to say there are people out there who have been noticing my contributions towards the welfare of ordinary Zimbabweans.
“I had an equally difficult childhood but thanks to other warm-hearted people who came to my aid, I managed to achieve the little I have accomplished this far.”
Macheso’s ambassadorial role will see him contribute towards local fundraising efforts as well as penning songs and jingles for the organisation.
The ZRCS commended Macheso for remaining modest regardless of his achievements in the local music industry.
They also revealed that they will be launching the Support a Zimbabwean campaign towards local fundraising for humanitarian programmes.
Last week, Macheso was in Kariba where ZRCS in partnership with the Danish Red Cross, is implementing a disaster risk reduction project targeting 2 347 households.
It will benefit rural communities of Mola, Negande and Nebiri which have an estimated population of 10 444.
The project is anchored on the need to empower communities and increase their capacity to prevent, predict, reduce the risk of, and respond to recurrent disasters.
It commenced in January this year and will run until June 30, 2018.
ZRCS secretary-general Maxwell Phiri said teachers, village health workers, religious leaders alongside government technical departments and civil society organisations will participate in the programme.