In the heart of Lupane, Matebeleland North in Zimbabwe, where arid fields stretch as far as the eye can see, and the sun beats down relentlessly, hope found its way to Rumbidzai Muvengwa and her four children through a remarkable initiative: the Emergency Social Cash Transfer (ESCT).
The ESCT targeted urban domains and was piloted in two districts Gutu and Highfields during the Covid-19 pandemic and was later spread to six districts, Beitbridge Urban, Bulawayo Metropolitan, Lupane Urban, Binga Urban, Mufakose Urban and groups and households that had lost their source of income.
Implemented by an alliance between UNICEF, World Vision, and the Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare Ministry, with crucial support from the Government of Germany via the KfW Development Bank, this program has breathed new life into the Muvengwa family, and many like them.
Muvengwa, a 32-year-old, lives in a dilapidated house in one of the suburbs of Lupane.
Her life took an unexpected turn when her husband deserted the family, leaving her as the sole provider for her four children. The struggle to put food on the table became an unending battle, and the prospect of educating her children seemed to grow dimmer with each passing day.
However, the introduction of the ESCT program marked a turning point. Through its carefully designed mechanisms, financial support was provided to the most vulnerable families in Zimbabwe. For Rumbidzai, this support meant she could not only feed her children but also aspire to a better future for them.
As we sat in the modest shade of her home, she shared her journey. “It felt like a miracle,” she said, recalling the moment she received the first cash transfer. “Suddenly, I had the means to buy food, clothing, and even send my children to school. It was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.”
The ESCT program provided a sense of stability and hope, giving Rumbidzai and her children a chance for a brighter tomorrow.
It was not only about financial assistance but also about empowering families to stand on their own feet. Rumbidzai seized this opportunity with both hands.
However, as the ESCT program reached its completion, the daunting spectre of poverty loomed once again.
Rumbidzai found herself in a precarious situation, unable to sustain the progress she had made. Her home, an unfinished house without a roof, has been a constant reminder of the dire situation she is in. She faces the threat of eviction with each passing day as she has no means to pay her rentals.
While the ESCT program provided a lifeline, it is clear that Rumbidzai needs ongoing support to break free from the cycle of poverty.
The absence of such support threatens the future of her children, who risk being forced out of school, reversing the hope-filled trajectory that the program had set in motion.
“We are back to square one. We have nothing to eat, nothing to wear, and nowhere to sleep. We are living in misery,” she says.
Unicef Zimbabwe social policy manager Andrew Kardan said some households had utilised the funds for income-generating projects.
“Some households went beyond buying food and supported their children’s education through paying school fees. Some also used the money received to pay for medical bills,” Kardan said.
Deputy Director of Family and Social Protection, in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Joseph Tirivavi noted that the program has come in handy for vulnerable households
“These are households with no person aged 19 to 59 years of age who is able-bodied to do productive work so as to fend for the household.
“Labour constraint categories include child-headed households, elderly-headed households, households with chronically ill members and households with disabled members,” he said