Cash Transfers: A lifeline for Serina's family

Saturday 18 July 2020

Serina, 78, lives with her two grandchildren and a three-week-old great granddaughter in a remote village in Mwenezi district in Southern Zimbabwe. Serina’s husband died leaving her with their three children, one son and two daughters. The son passed away leaving behind two children, Grace (who now has a baby) and Watida whom Serina has been taking care of from childhood. Serina’s daughter got married and went away.

Serina sits with her granddaughter whilst showing the blanket she bought using cash from REACH project

Despite planting small grains recommended for her region, Serina’s crops have failed in the last three years, as the district has been experiencing consecutive years of drought. This has left Serina and her grandchildren with nothing to eat, and she has had to sell her chickens in order to buy food.

“Last year we did not harvest anything from the fields. I survived by selling chickens that I had bought using an earlier cash transfer programme.”

From October 2019 to April 2020, Serina and her grandchildren have been surviving on a monthly cash allocation under a n ECHO funded cash transfer programme that was targeting food insecure households, especially those with children below 5 years, orphans and other vulnerable children, the elderly, terminally ill and people living with disability.

The intervention provided Serina with $31 USD every month, thus enabling her to buy food. Unfortunately, the cash transfer programme recently came to an end in April 2020. Since then Serina’s family has had to reduce their daily meals to one meal a day.

“We did not eat anything this morning. If we had sugar, we would have made maize-meal cookies and black tea. This time around, we only eat once in the afternoon and for dinner we cook pumpkin and mix it with sorghum.”

Serina has not been able to establish a vegetable garden for their family’s consumption, on account of her age and the long distance from her homestead to the water source. She therefore struggles to get vegetables for relish.

“Vegetables are expensive, they are being sold for $20 bond (Zimbabwean local currency) a bundle and it provides us with relish for about three meals. We never have enough vegetables at dinner. So the trick is, you dish more sadza (thick maize meal porridge) and less vegetables, and you will be satisfied.”

Serina says the cash she has been receiving assisted her and her grandchildren for a while. Their lifestyle changed and she also managed to buy other things which she couldn’t buy before. “I used the money to buy maize-meal and I also bought other delicious things for us to eat, including peanut butter. We were now having tea each day.”

“The money helped me a lot because I managed to clear school fees arreas for my grandson Watida. So the money from ECHO came at the right timeand I am grateful. ”

“I also bought a blanket using the money I received from ECHO. I was blessed. It’s a heavy blanket. I don’t feel the cold. I didn’t have this blanket before. I usually take my granddaughter’s baby and share the blanket with her, to keep her warm.”

Climate-related disasters, such as widespread drought are fuelling an unprecedented food crisis in Zimbabwe. According to the most recent IPC analysis released in March 2020 at the peak of the period of the year when food is scarcest, approximately 4.3 million people in rural Zimbabwe faced the worst levels of acute food insecurity and required emergency food assistance. Drought, localized flooding, and rising food prices remained among the primary drivers of acute food insecurity for rural households, the IPC analysis reported. Many hard-hit families are being forced to take desperate measures to survive such as reducing their daily meal intake, selling off livestock and other assets to survive. Amid all this, the country has also been grappling to cope with a declining economy and the COVID-19 emergency.

Save the Children and its implementing partners Care International and World Vision have been supporting the most vulnerable families through a cash transfer project funded by the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department. The project was implemented in Mbire, Mwenezi, Matobo and Beitbridge.