There's been a 70% increase in those who are coming to Mustard Seed's nutrition program in Zimbabwe since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic in March.
With lockdown measures preventing parents from working and more unemployment, more and more families are in need of food. At the beginning of the year, 537 children were showing up for a daily meal. In October, 911 children came to one of the four nutrition programs that Mustard seed runs in the area around Bulawayo, where Mustard Seed's home for children with disabilities and HIV is located.
We have met the need by feeding everyone who comes to the nutrition center. Children receive a nutritious and filling meal of sadza (cooked cornmeal) and beans. More volunteers have offered to help with the program and MSC Zimbabwe purchased more pots, pans, and utensils to serve more meals. There are additional feeding stations to keep lines shorter. As the amount of children looking for food increases, we are adjusting the programs to make sure we are feeding every hungry child.
Safety protocols have been enacted to make sure that even though more children are coming to be fed, we are preventing the spread of the Coronavirus. More volunteers are helping at the programs and they are regularly tested for COVID-19. Temperature checks and hand washing are required for all. Centers are sanitized on a daily basis. Staff and volunteers serving the children wear both face shields and masks. Social distancing is being enforced and there are markings to indicate where to stand in the line when receiving food. Mustard Seed Zimbabwe received a donation of 1,000 washable face masks and are looking for more masks, so each child will have at least two reusable fabric masks.
Nutrition Programs in Zimbabwe
In Woodville, families come from rural areas for work opportunities, though a total of 80% of local communities are unemployed. Some parents do not have proper identification and it limits their ability to find work. With the HIV pandemic, 25% of children are orphans.
Cabatsha is a squatter camp where more than 100 families live. The farming area attracted a lot of vulnerable families as they came in search of employment. Due to the land reform in Zimbabwe, the farms changed ownership and left hundreds of people unemployed. However, they did not move from the areas where they settled and are finding other means to survive. The feeding program at Cabatsha has been a resource to help families survive.
Ngozi Mine is a garbage dump where over 100 families live. All families survive from scavenging on the dump. There is a high rate of HIV and many child-headed households.
Pumula is one of the oldest suburbs in Bulawayo. The feeding program is situated at St. Bernard’s Parish. The feeding program has grown significantly with over 500 children now coming from the surrounding areas.