Trócaire’s 2022 Lenten Appeal launched last week on Ash Wednesday and this year’s appeal is focusing on the challenges facing people in Zimbabwe who are facing the twin threats of drought due to climate change and Covid-19.
SEVEN million people living in poverty, especially women, in drought-prone southern Zimbabwe have been disproportionately affected by the long-term impacts of Covid-19. Families were already unable to grow enough food to feed themselves because of drought and climate change, and now these challenges have been further exacerbated by the impact of the virus.
Women, who are the primary producers of food, have faced a massive increase in violent gender-based violence since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Travel restrictions have also resulted in far fewer opportunities for people to earn a living and poverty levels have increased.
The face of the appeal this year is Thandekile. Thandekile and her young family are facing hunger because the impacts of the pandemic have compounded the effects of drought and reduced the ways for people to earn a living.
Every day is a struggle for Thandekile whose only wish is to be able to provide for her children Nomatter (11) and Forward (8). The effects of climate change, including three droughts and a severe cyclone in the past five years, means that crops are failing, affecting the ability of the family to feed themselves.
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.
In November 2020, the family’s already fragile world was turned upside down when Covid-19 hit. Thandekile’s husband Donovan (35) passed away from Covid-19 while he was working in South Africa to earn an income to provide for his family. Left widowed, now Thandekile’s greatest fear is that she will die from Covid-19 or hunger and 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 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.”
Following the passing of Donovan, Thandekile struggled even more to provide food for her family, as 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 death, 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.
“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.”
Determined to provide for her two children, Thandekile began buying and selling women’s clothes in order to make money.
“My wish is to be able to provide for all their needs, so I hope that my business will grow. My hope is that my children will be able to continue in school and be successful in life.”
Trócaire has been working in Zimbabwe since 1980 in areas such as humanitarian aid, food security, women’s empowerment and human rights issues. In Thandekile’s community, Trócaire operates community gardens with its partner Caritas Bulawayo in which locals can plant vegetables, store seeds and learn about watershed management and planting methods. The garden is also used for Covid-19 awareness training.
Thandekile said: “The greatest gift that people can give to one another in life is food and money, because we need it to survive. What gives me hope is that I am still alive despite all that we have been through as a family. Whatever the problems you have been through in life, it is important to dust yourself off and move on, have hope and work hard for the children even if it’s very difficult. I thank the people of Ireland for all the help you give to us, please do not tire.”
This Lent the UK government will match all public donations in Northern Ireland to the Lenten Appeal pound for pound, doubling the impact you can make. To find out more about the appeal or to make a donation visit www.trocaire.org