By Sij Ncube
Harare, September 27, 2016 – WITH most of the country’s food relief efforts concentrated in rural areas, a local Non-Governmental Organisations has come up with a similar initiative which is targeting the more vulnerable elderly population in urban areas.
The Zimbabwe Initiative for Good Governance and Democracy (ZIGGD) said this was an attempt to alleviate the dire effects of the country’s economic situation which has been worsened by the El Nino induced drought.
Edwin Dzamara, the chairperson of the ZIGGD, said his organisation has launched a pilot project to feed some of Harare’s starving elderly, a development he adds was triggered by high poverty levels among the elderly in the capital.
He described this as shocking and a microcosm of a deteriorating national catastrophe.
While some NGOs were working with the government to dole out food aid in rural areas, old people in urban were in dire straits, with a number suspected to have succumbed to hunger pangs.
“Food is a basic human right so we are providing practical solutions such as giving out food hampers to elderly people. Ageing is a biological determinant and irreversible. Most elderly people face neglect and are unrecognised of their plight.
“We come in to fill the missing gap which is the provision of food as food is a basic need,” Dzamara told RadioVOP.
Last Saturday Dzamarai’s organisation fed scores of visibly hungry old citizens at a venue in Harare’s Highfields suburb as part of a programme to prevent starvation of the older members in some parts of Harare at a time the country was faced with a myriad of social, economic and political problems.
Musician Allan Chimbetu was guest of honour where he reiterated the need to assist all vulnerable people in the country where some of the beneficiaries of food hampers gave testimonials of their plight.
Dzamara adds: “Food hand-outs are an immediate solution to mitigate on the marathon hunger and starvation currently affecting the elderly.
“Hunger needs no postponement though it would be ideal to indulge in long haul solutions to the plight of the elderly by initiating small scale self-help projects.”
Dzamara noted that with the 2012 national census estimating Harare to have 1, 65 million people, the capital had an estimate population of 99 000 elderly people, representing 6 percent of the elderly population in Harare.
“Only about 1 percent of the 6 percent of the national elderly population is not suffering and the rest, the highest elderly population, urbanites are in great dire need for help. There is already high mortality rate and besides we are to focus on rural, mines, farms and compound areas to increase accessibility.”
Organisations working with the elderly moan the lack of laws to protect older people in the country, pointing out that older people constitute the biggest number of vulnerable people in Zimbabwe.
ZIGGG plans to establish self-help projects in future as a stop-gap measure.