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My heart bleeds knowing I have no food to give my grandchildren

Angelina Mhlanga has survived many droughts, but this year she had to contend with a crisis she had never seen before: Covid-19.

Angelina Mhlanga is struggling to feed her family given the challenges of drought and Covid. Photo : Ben Mahaka Angelina Mhlanga is struggling to feed her family given the challenges of drought and Covid. Photo : Ben Mahaka

Angelina Mhlanga has survived many droughts, but this year she had to contend with a crisis she had never seen before: Covid-19.

Like most people in Zimbabwe, Angelina relies on the rain to grow the crops she needs to survive. A terrible drought was already causing Angelina and her family to go hungry, but the impact of Covid-19 has left her struggling to provide anything for her three young grandchildren.

“My heart bleeds when it’s time to prepare a meal knowing that my grandchildren are looking up to me to provide when I know that there is no food,” she says.

Angelina (66) is a widow living with her three granddaughters. Her daughter moved to South Africa in search of work four years ago but they have not heard from her this year. They have no idea if she is alive or where she is.

When the rains come, she can grow enough food to feed the family and sell the extra produce at the local market. With this extra income she can pay school fees to ensure the three girls have an education and hope for a brighter future.

But drought and Covid restrictions have thrown Angelina – and millions more like her – into crisis.

Angelina is struggling to feed her family because of Covid and Drought. Photo : Ben Mahaka Angelina is struggling to feed her family because of Covid and Drought. Photo : Ben Mahaka
Angelina Mhlanga can no longer afford to pay school fees to send her grand-children to school. Photo : Ben Mahaka Angelina Mhlanga can no longer afford to pay school fees to send her grand-children to school. Photo : Ben Mahaka

Three in four people in Zimbabwe rely on growing their own food to survive. As a result of the drought, this year’s harvest only produced half of what the country needs.

People were already going hungry when the national Covid lockdown hit people’s ability to earn an income. Now, over 5 million people – one in every three people in Zimbabwe – are going hungry.

With no pension or social welfare safety nets, millions are struggling to make ends meet.

“The lockdown made hunger worse for us farmers” says Angelina. “I sell goods to the local community but during the lockdown we couldn’t move around.”

Not only could she not sell goods, she couldn’t access the water dam located 2km from her house that she relies on to feed her crops.

Now that the lockdown is over, she is planting again. But it will be months before the next harvest, and in the meantime she does not know how she can feed her family.

“I am planting my crops. It’s disheartening but I have no choice. It will take another three months from now to harvest something from the garden” she says.

Angelina’s youngest grand-daughter Buhlebenkosi. Photo : Ben Mahaka Angelina’s youngest grand-daughter Buhlebenkosi. Photo : Ben Mahaka

Angelina and other farmers like her are incredibly resilient. They have survived many droughts and crises and keep going. Yet this year they are really being pushed to the brink.

Trócaire is responding to the crisis in Zimbabwe by providing food assistance and emergency cash support to people like Angelina. The needs are overwhelming and supporting people like Angelina and her three girls through the hunger of the coming months will be challenging.

This Christmas we need your support to continue this critical work. Around the world, 270 million people are facing hunger because of a mixture of drought, conflict and Covid-19.

Your donations can help us to take on the devastating impact of the twin pandemics of hunger and Covid. Help us to provide hope to Angelina’s family and many other communities around the world going hungry.

Please donate to our Christmas appeal today.

Drought has affected Zimbabwe for three years in a row. This is Angelina Mhlanga’s homestead where she lives with her three grand-daughters, Lethukuhle, Nomagugu and Buhlebenkosi. Photo : Ben Mahaka Drought has affected Zimbabwe for three years in a row. This is Angelina Mhlanga’s homestead where she lives with her three grand-daughters, Lethukuhle, Nomagugu and Buhlebenkosi. Photo : Ben Mahaka
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