22 January 2021
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Kids fending for their family

Written by  Vincent Khonje
Delivering the Support Delivering the Support

Kasungu, September `17, 2020:The innocence on their faces shows nothing notifying struggle in their lives.

They do not have neither the luxury of either staying home or only play with friends nor the hope of going home and find food already prepared.

For the family to eat they have to go out and find money for food.

Hamilton,13 and his sister Agnes, 10 stay with their grandmother Margaret Magombo,71, at Gumbo Village in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Mwase and already they tell a story of being bread winners for their family.

Staying in their grass thatched house, their lives can be described as a real struggle.

Apart from Hamilton, Agnes and their grandmother there are four other children making it a family of seven.

Being an old woman, Magombo has no means to fend for the six children so it is Hamilton and Agnes who have to go out and make a little money for their daily bread.

“We go out with my sister in town to sell drinking water in plastic tubes. After that we buy food for which we eat with our grandmother,” Hamilton disclosed.

The question may be why are the little kids being forced into such a huge task of feeding the family?
An immediate answer is that these children staying with their granny are orphans and their only hope lies in the old woman who is growing weak.

According to Magombo, she had 10 children with her late husband who passed on in 2016.

All her 10 children passed away with one of the daughters leaving behind the six kids who are under her watch now.

Hamilton is the eldest and the only one who has a different father from the other five.

“These children were staying in Nkhotakota with their father and mother. But my daughter passed away and they were brought here by the father,” Magombo explained.

She said the father later disappeared and never to be heard of again up to now.

Luckily for Magombo, her late husband built her a house in which with her grandchildren they are staying now.

The hassles are where to get food to eat.

This where the two eldest children, Hamilton and Agnes play a crucial role of setting off to town with as little as K50 and buy water in plastic tubes at K10 each and resell at K20.

The profit is 100 percent and they repeat multiplication business until they have enough to buy food for the family.

The little Agnes added, “I sell the drinking water in town and I am used to it.”
The part of the town where kids are seen moving around with basins full of water in plastic tubes is where there are stalls selling chips.

The place is close to a tavern and some shebeens.

As little as Agnes her life in that dangerous place where people get drunk to the point of forgetting themselves, some misguided souls can pose a threat to her.

The innocence in her may not make her see the darkness the street corners have but she needs protection.

But then they have to eat.

The water business is not out of choice but rather a necessity.

“The children are forced to go out to sell the drinking water and what they make is what is used to buy food,” Magombo said.

She pointed out that sometimes if it was not for the neighbours who help her with food sometimes there are days they go to sleep without eating anything.

Police are strict on the kids to sell any kind of stuff in the streets on Kasungu town.

For now, Hamilton and Agnes can no longer go in town and make money for them to eke out a living.
Currently, the family is relying on hand outs by well-wishers but this is not sustainable.

A WhatsApp group calling itself Support Agnes Foundation (Well-wishers initiative) made a donation of financial and material resources to the family.
Founder of the Group, Richard Maliwu who initially met Agnes selling the drinking water said he was shocked to hear the story about the little girl.

He pleaded with well-wishers to join them in supporting the family with long term solutions since the children also need a good house and education.

Government has some social support schemes that help those who are labour constrained and some who are labour capable.

Recently there was an exercise a Unified Beneficiary Register (UBR) exercise which provides a single source of information on households eligible for social support services.

According to their classification some people are put on Social Cash Transfer, Farm Input Subsidy programme and some on Public Works Programme (PWP).

But why can’t people like Magombo benefit from SCT?

Kasungu District Social Welfare Officer responsible for Social Cash Transfer, Victor Nyirenda said Magombo was not even recorded in the UBR because she stays in an area considered an urban.

“It is impossible for her to be considered for social cash transfer as she is in an urban setting,” he observed.

A well-wisher has given Magombo one acre of land but then there are issues of inputs and labour for her to grow some crops.

“It is a field I have just been given not permanently, any time the owner can decide to rent it out so it is not mine, she said, citing that, “ I will need seeds and fertilizers apart from someone to work in it.”
But What is it that government is doing to help people like Magombo who cannot be on social cash transfer and is also labour constrained to be considered for PWP.

It should be noted that currently the Social Cash Transfer targets only 10 percent of the ultra-poor, although Government is working to increase number of beneficiaries to up to 15 percent.

According to Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Public Relations Officer (PRO), Lucy Bandazi, the Ministry uses case management and referral approaches.

She said Magombo’s case, the Ministry first does an assessment and depending on the results of that assessment appropriate support is given.

“For the children, the office further does assessments in the best interest of the child that is support at home, education, alternative care (extended family or fostering), adoption and the last option is placement in child care institutions,” Bandazi stated.

The Ministry has linked the family with two groups who are going to provide support to the family.

“The Ministry will do a follow up of the family to see how it is fairing” she added.

It has to be hoped for the better that the Hamilton and Agnes and their siblings will have a new lease of life and realize their dreams, otherwise if no sustainable support is found the kids will continue to suffer.


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