Micho Gatsi, 18, lost his parents to an AIDS-related illness and now struggles to care for his brother alone. Amid floods and drought, he relies on handouts from neighbours. Photo: Zimbabwe Red Cross Society
By Stambuli Kim, Zimbabwe Red Cross Society
Life has not been fair for 18-year-old Micho Gatsi, an orphan who stays in the flood prone and drought stricken Mukombwe village, 340 kilometres north of Zimbabwe’s capital.
He had to drop out of school in grade 3 as his peasant parents could not afford tuition fees. He then lost his parents to an AIDS-related illness three years ago. Since then, he has been faced with the daunting task of fending for this 14-year-old brother, all by himself.
“We are surviving at the mercy of the community who give us some food handouts. We count ourselves lucky when we have a meal of porridge in a day. Things are really tough for us these days as fellow community members who used to give us some food handouts are also in the same predicament as ours – the rains failed us and no one harvested anything,” says Micho with a heavy face.
The area was affected by incessant rains during the past rainy season which badly affected their maize field.
“We had planted our small field with untreated maize seeds and without any fertilizers or manure, hence the crop was affected by too much rain over a short period. While our neighbours can sell their livestock to buy some food, we have nothing to sell, not even chickens,” adds Micho.
Sharing water sources with cattle and goats
With temperatures hovering around 40 degrees Celsius in the low lying areas of Muzarabani, the water and sanitation situation is also dire. Community members in Micho’s village draw their water from the Msengezi River. It is also the same water source for their domestic animals such as cattle and goats. Their village borehole broke down some years back and has not yet been repaired.
“My plea is for urgent food assistance to sustain me and my brother until the next harvest season. We are hard workers but that does not yield anything if you are unlucky with the rains. Our situation is very grim and we urgently need food on the table, even at least a meal for the day,” says Micho.
Zimbabwe is facing a year of food insecurity following a poor harvest season. The lean season is commencing earlier than usual in a context of already high levels of chronic vulnerability.
Micho and his young brother are among the 10,830 people targeted in Mudzi and Muzarabani Districts for support by the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society through the recently launched emergency food security appeal. The operation, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), seeks to provide basic food assistance, agriculture and livelihood support, clean water and hygiene promotion, so as to ameliorate the adverse effects of reduced nutritional intake. The assistance will also aim at reducing negative coping mechanisms adopted by affected households during the hunger period.
According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, at least 1.5 million Zimbabweans, or 16 percent of rural households, are likely to be unable to meet their food needs during the 2015/2016 hunger season. The main contributing factors are a 50 per cent reduction in maize production compared to the previous harvest year, and an associated cereal deficit of 650,000 metric tonnes, not including the 350,000 metric tonnes required for livestock and industrial purposes.