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Women’s Caucus takes government to task over food crisis

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The Women’s Caucus of Parliament has given government up to Friday this week to explain to the committee what strategies it has put in place to deal with the hunger situation the country is facing.

An inside source, who opted for anonymity, on Tuesday said the committee had called for a meeting with Ministry of Agriculture officials four days ago but they failed to turn up, saying they needed to get clearance from their bosses.

“When the parliamentary committee calls you, you have no excuse whatsoever because it is mandated by people to seek answers on their behalf. In our case, we want them to assure us how they are going to ensure that women and children have access to food,” said the source.

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She added: “Government should consider itself accountable because it has the responsibility to take care of the population.”

The source also disclosed that the committee seeks to take the ministry to task on maize rationing once Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) depots open in November this year.

“They say the depots are opening in November but to us that is too far because people are already suffering. As such, we have questions on whether we are really prepared or not, needless to mention that the 20 kilogrammes is too little.

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“Think of an elderly woman who has walked 10 to 15 kilometres to look for that grain. Are we serious we want her to go back with just 20 kilogrammes [from] which she might even lose five to a kabaza boy on the way?” she explained.

Confirming the development on Wednesday, Chairperson of the Caucus, Jessie Kabwila, expressed concern over government’s reluctance on the matter, saying it smacks of lack of seriousness on the part of authorities in addressing an urgent situation which concerns people’s lives.

“We are talking of a situation where people’s lives are endangered; they are failing to sustain themselves and government needs to respond to that but unfortunately they have not been forthcoming and Friday is our final day of trying to catch up with them. They have confirmed of their availability but should they fail again, then we will address the nation,” explained Kabwila.

She stressed that government needs to come out in the open and clearly explain how it is containing the situation, arguing they feel for women, especially those in rural areas, who toil day in and day out in search for food for their families.

“It’s not just about sounding an SOS or raising awareness. It’s about having proper policies, plans and what have you on the ground. So you know Parliament is about oversight and we need just that by calling for this meeting,” said Kabwila.

Authorities from the Agriculture Ministry could not be drawn to comment as their mobile phones went an answered.

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