THE Public Service and Social Welfare ministry will spend $1,20 billion instead of a required $11 billion between now and March 2020 to feed seven million food insecure people in the country, Parliament heard on Tuesday.

Acting Labour secretary Clifford Matora appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service to speak on the 2020 budget where he revealed that vulnerability levels in the country had risen.

This month the USAid factsheet said that approximately 2,3 million people in rural Zimbabwe faced hunger, while the World Food Programme also estimated that two million urbanites were food insecure.

“The ministry wanted an $11 billion budget for food mitigation – the reasons being the current price escalations, and the requirements are $9 billion in order to stretch up to March 2020,” Matora said.

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“Government has also made a decision that transportation of the gain should now be a government expense instead of the vulnerable people being made to pay for transport so the $9 billion figure include transport,” he said.

Chief accountant in the ministry Edson Goronga added: “Vulnerability levels in the country have increased because of drought and issues to do with the Transitional Stabilisation Programme so we need more mitigation in terms of food programmes so that people do not die of hunger because in certain areas where people need food aid we are unable to cater for them.”

Government will also pump in $2 million for children living on the streets who will be taken to a centre far from Harare, which the Public Service ministry officials said due to its distance it would then be difficult for them to wantonly return to the capital city.

“For children in difficult circumstances, we were allocated only $13 million out of an ideal budget of $80 million. They will get $200 per child per month, but we are not likely to assist as many children as required because there are about 1,8 million children that need assistance and not every one of them is in institutions,” Goronga said.

For the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam), government is currently assisting 415 900 children across the country, but the ministry officials told Parliament that the thrust is to scale up the programme to assist 1,2 million orphaned and vulnerable students.

“Government had $90 million arrears for Beam which accumulated since 2016, but these have been cleared. The last batch of $9 million will be paid this week. As a ministry, we also managed to clear $11 million under assisted medical orders owed to general and district hospitals, so we are now operating on a clean slate,” Matora said.

For pauper burials, a $2 million budget was availed when the ministry needed $5 million.