The children’s mother, Thandekile, tells of the family’s fight for survival in the Matobo district in Southern Zimbabwe without the support of her beloved husband. Climate change, which has resulted in three droughts and a severe cyclone over the past five years, means that crops are failing, affecting the ability for the family to feed themselves.
Her greatest fear now is that she will die from Covid-19 or hunger, and that there will be no-one to look after her children.
“I live for my children and my wish is to be able to provide for all their needs. My greatest fear is to die whilst my kids are still young. I pray that the Lord keeps me so that I raise them until they are old enough to take care of themselves,” she says.
The impact of Covid-19 has been deeply felt by Thandekile and her community. The last time Thandekile spoke to her husband Donovan, he had just finished work in South Africa and had been feeling fine. But the following day, Thandekile was told that Donovan was unable to talk or breathe and he was rushed to the hospital where he sadly died from Covid-19.
Devastated, Thandekile says his death was so sudden that their children are still struggling to accept the fact that they will never see or speak to their father again. “The death of my husband hit me very hard and I was bed-ridden for days. I did not know how I was going to move on and raise my children without the presence of their father,” she says. “His death greatly affected my children too. Donovan was a good father to our children and a good husband to me.”
The children miss their father a great deal. “He would bring us new clothes, sweets and biscuits when he came home from South Africa. It was nice when my father was around. I was always waiting for the time he came home,” Nomatter says.
Women in Zimbabwe are the primary producers of food. As well as struggling with livelihoods, women like Thankdekile also face increasing levels of gender-based violence due to the pandemic, with a 60 percent increase in reports of GBV incidents to service providers during the 2020 lockdown. Thandekile has seen how damaging this can be.
Even before Covid-19, Thandekile and her family were facing hunger as droughts and heavy rainfall caused their plants and crops to fail. The family would often go nights without eating as food was not always available in their community.
Following the death of her husband Thandekile struggled even more to provide food for her family. Grieving for her husband meant that she couldn’t engage in farming activities which delayed the planting of crops and made them even more vulnerable to heavy rainfall.
“Following Donovan’s passing, my life was very hard financially since he was the breadwinner. It also affected my ability to earn an income as at times I would be so stressed and too sick to even go out and work. I did not have the means to pay school fees for the children, to buy uniforms and all our other basic needs because I had no source of income,” she says.
“Due to Covid-19, a lot of businesses were shut down which made a lot of people unemployed. This worsened the ability for anyone to have access to money or at least get a job. Children could not go to school because of the lockdown and you can tell that their progress has been greatly affected.”
Irish woman Eimear Lynch, who works with Trócaire in Zimbabwe, says that the Irish public’s donations this Lent will be vital to support families who are struggling from the effects of Covid-19 and Climate Change.
“Thandekile and her family have had an extremely difficult time in the last few years. Thandekile was already struggling with shortages of food when her husband died from Covid-19. Since then, Thandekile found it even more difficult to buy food for her children Nomatter and Forward and to pay for their school fees and medicines,” Ms Lynch says.