Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent

NEARLY 142 000 households in Matabeleland South Province are in need of food aid under the drought relief programme as the number of vulnerable households continues to rise due to the effects of drought and Covid-19.

Speaking during a meeting on Sunday, Matabeleland South provincial social welfare officer, Mr Criswell Nyakudya said the province has 141 659 vulnerable households and at the moment 63 380 households were receiving grain under the drought relief programme.

He said they had sent a request to increase the number and were waiting for approval.

“The drought relief programme is ongoing in all seven districts in the province in Matabeleland South Province. We currently have 68 380 households that are receiving grain which is a total of 3 419 metric tonnes per month. We have made a request for our allocation as a province to be increased as the number of vulnerable people has increased significantly especially with this prevailing pandemic and more people are in need of assistance,” he said.

“About 141 659 households in the province are vulnerable and in need of assistance which brings the total amount of grain we need to 7 082 from 3 419 metric tonnes which we are receiving now. We sent this request last month and we hope it will be considered. In this list we also included people that are vulnerable as a result of Covid-19. Our social welfare officers working with District Development Coordinators and the community leadership assisted us in identifying these people.”

Mr Nyakudya said under the drought relief programme they were practicing social distancing and all officers administering the programme had been given thermometers to check temperatures of beneficiaries.

He said distribution points had also been moved closer to the people.

Mr Nyakudya said at the moment the department of social welfare is providing food for people at seven quarantine centres in the province.

Speaking during the same meeting Matabeleland South acting Provincial Development Coordinator, Ms Sithandiwe Ncube said the Covid-19 pandemic threatens food security in the province. She said there were people who were not under the drought relief programme who were in need of food aid.

“The prevailing pandemic has caused a huge threat to food security in the province. There are people who are not under the drought relief programme whose welfare has been greatly affected. Some are people in the rural areas who have been relying on their children in the diaspora for support and with the borders closed they have been left desperate,” said Ms Ncube.

“These people have to be included under drought mitigation programmes under the department of social welfare during this time and the situation will be later reviewed.”