The lockdown has dealt a body blow to the elderly in Zimbabwe.
73-year-old widow, Ellen Ndlovu, who lives in the mining town of Gwanda, south of Zimbabwe, survives on selling firewood and mats. The diabetic granny lost her son two years ago and was left to take care of her seven-year-old grandson. With the little she makes from her firewood and mats; she can feed herself and the little boy. But since the lockdown, she’s been unable to work and earn a few dollars for their upkeep.
Last week, she collapsed because of hunger after going two days without a decent meal. According to medical experts, if a diabetic patient does not eat their blood sugar levels are lower and medication may drop them even more, which can lead to hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemia can cause you to feel shaky, pass out, or even go into a coma.
“I take pills for sugar diabetes and when I don’t take them it’s dangerous for me. I collapsed last week,” she said. But through a generous donation by Pretoria-based IT firm Bigtime Strategic Group, 700 households in the mining town will put food on the table during the lockdown.
The company, which funded the repatriation of 400 Zimbabweans from South Africa last week, extended assistance to the returnees and 700 families in Gwanda. The provisions, which include mealie-meal, rice, cake flour, sugar, cooking oil, - beans and soap, are being distributed at the COVID-19 centres in Zimbabwe’s second largest city Bulawayo and the capital Harare.
The rest of the food has been distributed in Gwanda, where the company’s CEO, Justice Maphosa, was born and raised. “In remembrance of the people that are struggling; I still have my community at heart hence the allocation of the 700 food parcels. The criteria for the food parcels recipients are the elderly and the orphans. The elderly being those who are above 60 years of age and are not working,” Maphosa said.
Pastor Sipho Mhizha, whose church Brethren in Christ will distribute the food, said the timeous donation would come in handy as many were struggling in the town. “The church has tried where it could, but it’s a challenging time and it was proving to be difficult to extend help to the people here. So, the donation is quite timeous because many people were stranded,” he said.
Bigtime built the 5000-seater church pastored by Mhizha in 2014. The company hosts the Gwanda Gospel Festival annually where South African musicians including Dr Tumi, Omega Khunou, Hlengiwe Mhlaba, Dumi Mkokstad, Thina Zungu and Sipho Makhabane have all featured.
Meanwhile, Bigtime also donated 3000 gloves, 3000 masks and sanitizers enough for all the returnees to be quarantined in Bulawayo and Harare.
“They will each get a pair of gloves and a mask daily for good hygiene purposes and to combat the spread of Covid-19 virus,” Maphosa explained.