By Matabeleland North Correspondent
ABOUT 5 000 vulnerable children in Victoria Falls went without food Friday after the planned nationwide protests on the day saw the suspension of a feeding scheme that has been running for the past two weeks.
The Covid-19 local taskforce initiated a feeding scheme early this month targeting to feed about 9 000 vulnerable children in the country’s tourism capital with hot lunches from Monday to Friday.
The number was brought down to 5 000 as the target.
However, the vulnerable children were left hungry Friday after the feeding scheme was forced to cancel due to a lockdown and residents’ travel restrictions.
In a statement, the local taskforce said police on patrol Thursday banned the feeding scheme.
“Dear all! We are not conducting feeding programme at the request of ZRP,” the taskforce said.
The feeding takes place every Monday to Friday with the exception of weekends and there are seven feeding points at schools and churches in Mkhosana and Chinotimba high-density locations.
Some children who had missed the message went to feeding points and found no one while other parents responded angrily, castigating the organisers of the botched protests for disrupting the scheme.
“Today (Friday) our children are not going to get free food from the seven feeding points dotted around Victoria Falls because of this day. This is not right and our children will starve,” one parent complained after learning the free lunch would not be available.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 taskforce has made an appeal for more donations to continue with the programme.
“We need to have a common goal to continue fund-raising efforts to support this. We need constant supplies of food and other materials such as detergents, and roofing sheets to construct foodsheds at feeding points,” said the taskforce in the statement.
Targeted are infants to high school students and is meant to cushion them from hunger as most of their families are struggling to provide daily decent meals.
In the past, Victoria Falls was not on the international food aid radar because of its once flourishing tourism industry. However, the demise of the sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic has left thousands of children exposed to hunger.
This is because the pandemic has rendered more than 90% of tourism workers jobless as the majority of operators, hotels and lodges terminated contracts of workers because of lack of business.
Victoria Falls now needs food assistance like never before, with some adults also turning up to beg for food meant for minors from infants to high school.
The taskforce said after feeding 500 children on the first day on July 14, the number had grown to more than 5 000 per day and a cumulative of 39 934 last Thursday.
Numbers have been steadily rising since the first day with some parents accompanying their children. The minors are given lunch consisting of sadza or rice with cabbage or beans and coleslaw, as well as nutritional porridge for malnourished babies.