Zimbabweans will enjoy expanded social protection in 2020 with one million students receiving free education under the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) while food aid, health assistance and cash transfers to vulnerable families will also be enhanced.
The improved assistance, to the low-income end members of society, comes as the country is reeling from the ravaging effects of last year’s drought, the worst in 40 years.
So severe was the impact of the 2018-2019 drought that the World Food Programme (WFP) has listed Zimbabwe as one of the 15 hotspots in the world in need of food aid, to rally donor funding for the vulnerable groups.
In a special report last week, the WFP rallied for donor support to Zimbabwe to mitigate the crisis caused by last year’s drought.
“Sub-Saharan Africa dominates WFP’s analysis, with Zimbabwe, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central Sahel region all needing immediate attention, given the urgent needs of children, women and men,” announced the WPF.
WFP said the country was facing a humanitarian emergency owing to the climate change-driven drought, and general economic challenges.
While international donors are ratcheting up support to Zimbabwe, Government has taken a proactive stance to expand assistance programmes on its own.
In a document availed to The Sunday Mail, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare said it will expand social protection measures in 2020 to assist vulnerable groups.
The BEAM programme, which provides fees assistance to orphans and other vulnerable children will increase beneficiaries to one million from 415 000 who benefited last year.
BEAM covers primary, second and tertiary education.
“A total 415 000 orphans and other vulnerable children countrywide benefited from the BEAM programme through the payment of school fees and examination fees for those that wrote examinations in 2019.
“For 2020 financial year, a total $450 million has been budgeted for and it is expected to cover school fees for more beneficiaries hence a scale-up of beneficiaries from 415 000 to one million is expected,”said the ministry.
Currently, Government has no overdue amounts under BEAM as it disbursed $140 million in 2019 to clear all arrears which had accumulated since 2014.
To further capacitate pupils, BEAM will closely monitor selection committees at district and provincial levels to ensure that the programme is implemented according to set procedures.
As a result of the 2018-19 drought, the Government noted that most parts of the country and communities were in dire need of food aid, including those that had never received the food handouts before.
The situation will see the Food Assistance Programme extend 50kg of maize to vulnerable households monthly.
Unlike previous years, food distribution is being conducted in both rural and urban areas.
Last week, the Ministry of Finance released $10 million for the transportation of grain to vulnerable families around the country.
The ministry said part of the food being distributed currently includes a consignment of rice donated by China to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has directed it to benefit all rural constituencies.
“Pursuant to this His Excellency, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde E.D. Mnangagwa has made a donation of 15 tonnes of Chinese rice for each rural constituency to be given to the rural populace during the festive season,” reads part of the Government action plan document.
“The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare will ensure that the donated rice is distributed during the festive season.
“This rice supplements the already existing food deficit mitigation strategy being implemented in all rural provinces; and Harare and Bulawayo urban areas. The programme caters for the food poor and labour constrained households who include the destitute elderly, the chronically ill, people with disabilities and child- headed households.”
Health and child protection
The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare said it was working with counterparts in the Ministry of Health and Child Care to facilitate waivers for low-end members of society at public health institutions.
“This is a health fee waiver for vulnerable people who seek treatment at Government district and provincial hospitals, mission and major referral hospitals and are unable to meet the health costs,” the plan document reveals.
“In 2019, a total 25 000 beneficiaries and arrears of over $8 million were cleared during the year and the budget for 2020 is $40 million.”
In addition, $150 million had been set aside for child protection this year.
The amount will see $20 million being targeted to assist children living on the streets.
Cash transfers and public assistance
In 2019, at least 65 000 vulnerable households in 23 districts benefited from cash assistance by Government with families being paid $20 monthly. However, the beneficiaries will this month get a windfall after the amount was increased to $100 a month, backdated to January 2019.
“In 2020, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare intends to scale up Harmonised Social Cash Transfer to 33 districts while the remaining districts will be covered under the Public Assistance Programme.
“A total $500 million has been allocated towards payment of beneficiary households under Public Assistance and Harmonized Social Cash Transfers in the whole country.”
This year, Government plans to offer assistive devices to 600 people compared to 194 that benefited last year.
In addition, 3 700 persons with disabilities will be placed under institutional care.
There are also 6 500 disabled students expected to benefit from BEAM.
It is anticipated that by year end, the National Disability Policy and the Disabled Persons Act, which will fully address concerns of persons with disabilities, will be in place.