Guardians of children with disabilities in Beitbridge get cash boost
Cash payouts help alleviate challenges for poor households
Eighty-one-year-old Pauline Ngwenya shed tears as she narrated the struggles she endured to get help for her grandchildren with disabilities.
Ngwenya from Beitbridge’s Dulivhadzimu high-density suburb stays with four orphaned grandchildren, and two of them have disabilities.
She said she struggled to get assistance for her 23-year-old granddaughter, who has speech and hearing impairment, and another 13-year-old with mental illness until she was enrolled on the Emergency Social Cash Transfer (ESCT) programme last year.
The ESCT programme was implemented by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, UNICEF and World Vision with financial assistance from the Government of Germany through KfW Development Bank.
It was introduced to help reduce food insecurity and improve dietary diversity and maternal-child health outcomes of vulnerable households in Zimbabwe.
For Ngwenya, who had no reliable source of income, the programme that saw her receive a US$52 monthly payout was a godsend as she could buy household provisions for her grandchildren and pay their school fees.
“I stay with my orphaned grandchildren, and two of them have disabilities,” she said. “My other grandchild is unemployed.”
“Before I started receiving money from the Government, UNICEF and partners, I was struggling to take care of the children as I used to rely on well-wishers, who will chip in here and there.
“I travelled as far as Bulawayo to seek help at Ingutsheni Central Hospital (mental health institution) for my granddaughter, who is in Form One. I also made frequent visits to the Department of Social Development to seek assistance in buying medication.”
“Our lives changed last year when a team from World Vision visited us and I started receiving the money.”
“I could now buy food, medication, and pay fees for those still going to school.”
Hour of need
Ngwenya, forced to stop her vending business because of poor health, said she was grateful to the programme for coming to the rescue in her hour of need.
Also, in the border town’s Shule Shule high-density suburb, Letwin Tafireyika (35) said the Emergency Social Cash Transfer (ESCT) programme helped her give her children a better life.
Tafirenyika’s 14-year-old son is disabled and uses a wheelchair for mobility.
“I have two children, and I also look after my late sister’s child,” she said.
“I started receiving US$48 a month from the programme last year before the amount was revised to US$52.
“It went a long way in alleviating some of the challenges we were facing as a family.”
Like Ngwenya, Tafirenyika said she used the ESCT money to buy food and pay school fees for her children.
The Emergency Social Cash Transfer (ESCT) Programme’s foundation was born out of the Harmonised Social Cash Transfer (HSCT) Programme, focusing on increasing the programme’s coverage and strengthening its delivery systems. The HSCT Programme began in 2011 and was funded by the Department for International Development (DfID); the European Union (EU); Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC); Kingdom of the Netherlands, Embassy of Sweden/Sida. Currently, the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, has maintained the programme supporting 33 districts. The ‘harmonised’ feature of the programme focuses on a set of child protection interventions that enhance household food security and promote children’s human capital (schooling, nutrition). Key successes of the HSCT were increased capacity for households to purchase their own food and other non-food items, thus promoting self-reliance and reducing negative coping mechanisms.
Unemployed Sibusisiwe Sibanda from Bulawayo’s Gwabalanda high density was emotional as she spoke about how the Emergency Social Cash Transfer (ESCT) programme helped her take care of her household of 11 people, including a 13-year-old with albinism.
“I stay with my sister’s children and my young sister,” Sibanda said.
“I started receiving a US$48 monthly payout two years ago before the amount was revised to US$52. The money eased the burden on me as I am taking care of seven children, including orphans.”
“Two of my late sister’s children were not attending school when I started receiving the money. I managed to take them back to school.”
“The programme helped when no one was prepared to assist me.”
Jason Mungodzwa, a principal administrative officer in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works in Beitbridge, said the ESCT money had greatly alleviated poverty in the border town.
“We appreciate how this programme was rolled out as we have seen a reduction in the number of vulnerable households, especially in Beitbridge urban,” Mungodzwa said.
“If funding permits, we hope to see more households benefiting from the programme.”
Children with disabilities face many barriers to accessing social services such as health, nutrition, education, sanitation and economic opportunities.
In Zimbabwe, because of economic challenges, children with disabilities are among the most marginalised and under-represented groups of children.