“We end up eating our baby’s food because the situation at times becomes so bad, there wont be any food in the house…”
By Michael Gwarisa
IT’S a Wednesday morning and hundreds of women both young and old are queuing at a World Food Program (WFP) container cubicle at Hopley Satellite Clinic to get their monthly allocations of fortified food for them and their young ones.
Amongst the women is one weary looking young woman seating by the long bench with her baby clutched on her back. A gaze deep inside her eyes tells a story, one that is so sad and so hard to believe, one that is not for the faint hearted for it carries with it a very painful experience punctuated by HIV infection, poverty and starvation.
Her story is no different from that of her many female counterparts in Hopley whose livelihoods solely rely on donor food aid and handouts on daily basis. Prostitution is rife in the area as young girls try to curve a living using available means in this dog eat dog economy.
For one Rhoda Nyakundu who is visibly in her late 20s, the year 2012 almost shattered her hopes of survival when she discovered she was HIV positive.
“I tested positive for HIV in the year 2012, soon after that, I was initiated on Anti Retro Viral (ART) treatment and because of my economic situation and poverty at home, I was also malnourished so I was also initiated on a feeding scheme. I would collect my monthly rations from Harare Hospital where i would get allocations of Mealie meal, cooking oil and porridge.
“After that, I regained my stature and the rations stopped coming. That’s is when I met the man who is now my husband and we got married and had our first child. That’s when I started losing weight and I was ordered to re-register for food rations here at Hopley Clinic where I started getting food for me and my child fro WFP, ” said Rhoda.
She applauded WFP for restoring her health and that of others in the community as most residents in the area are unemployed, poor and starving and living with HIV. Because of the grinding poverty in her home since she and her husband don’t work, Rhoda said they end up consuming their rations within a week or two including the baby’s porridge allocation.
“The food we are getting is helping us a lot, I see a great improvement in my son as well. I as the mother get 10kg of mealie meal every month and my child gets four small packets which add up to 6kgs.
“However, we end up eating the rations as a family, we even end up eating porridge meant for our son, there wont be any option, whenever we run out of food, we turn to these rations. Both me and my husband don’t work, I was fortunate two days ago when I got $2 and bought vegetables for sale and started a small market. I have been getting food here since 2012, i hope WFP increases food rations so that we will last for the whole month.”
The WFP is being funded by PEPFAR to support malnourished HIV and TB clients in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutasa. In spite of progress in reducing under nutrition in the past 15 years, chronic under nutrition in Zimbabwe remains high, with 26 percent of children stunted, a rate classified as ‘poor’ by the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO). Acute un-dernutrition is low in the general population but remains a persistent problem in people living with HIV.
WFP however says it will continue to support the Ministry of Health and Child Care to reduce moderate acute malnutrition levels amongst HIV/AIDS and/or TB patients, pregnant and lactating women, and children under five. Currently WFP is being funded by USAID/PEPFAR to support malnourished HIV and TB clients in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutasa.
Meanwhile, ADRA Zimbabwe who are also working at the Hopley Clininc where they are administering the food rations to malnourished HIV positive residents.
ADRA Zimbabwe’s official Chenjerai Tom said the Hopley community was too big for the Satellite Clinic and stuff at the centre were overwhelmed by hundreds of people who come seeking medical attention on a daily basis. He added that the HIV scourge was rampart in the area due to idleness as most people only have sex as the source of entertainment and child prostitution was very high.
“We as ADRA are doing the health and nutrition program in eight clinics in Harare supported by the City Health department. So mainly we are complimenting the city health department’s efforts towards addressing malnutrition and here at Hopley, we are targeting those who are on ART, those with TB, lactating women and children below the age of five.
“Amongst these groups, we select those who are moderately malnourished, these are the ones who for the supplementary feeding. We also asses their household food security situation, once we register them we give them the Soya blend and super cereal, these are just fortified supplements to just improve the health of these people, once we asses that they have picked up, we discharge them,” said Tom.
Hopley Satellite Clinic is manned by eight trained nurses against a daily turnout of people in need of medical help which is above 100 everyday and 4000 every month.