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Over seven million Zimbabweans in need of food aid: World Bank

14 June 2021 - 19:02 By Lenin Ndebele
Vendor Rosemary Mudzamiri arranges her wares in Harare. ‘All we want is a better future,’ she says.
Vendor Rosemary Mudzamiri arranges her wares in Harare. ‘All we want is a better future,’ she says.
Image: Jekesai Njikizana

The World Bank says Covid-19 and its impact expanded the number of extremely poor people in Zimbabwe and increased extreme poverty to 49% in 2020.

In its latest economic analysis of Zimbabwe, the World Bank said that, to date, insufficient financial resources and implementation capacity constrained the government’s ability to reach the growing number of people in extreme poverty.

The World Banks’ economic report states that an addition of 1.3 million people living in abject poverty resulted in 7.9 million Zimbabweans from both rural and urban communities in need of food aid. As of the 2012 census Zimbabwe had a population of 14 million.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa introduced a total lockdown at the end of March last year. Without international support because of the country’s ruinous human rights record and an underperforming economy, finance minister Prof Mthuli Ncube wrote to international creditors warning that the country could totally collapse without financial assistance.

With most industries closed save for the mining sector many jobs were cut. A survey cited by the World Bank says “nearly 500,000 Zimbabwean households have at least one member who lost her or his job, causing many households to fall into poverty, and worsening the plight of the existing poor”.

On Sunday, Zimbabwe put in place a somewhat eased lockdown as the country anticipated a third wave of infections, after recording 700 cases and 68 deaths in one week. Instead of a total shutdown, the government instructed businesses to close at 6pm, instead of 8pm, and work with 50% of their staff.

The World Bank warns that another serious lockdown could further disrupt provision of basic public services in health, education and social protection, which were strained before the pandemic, affecting poor citizens the most.

“Household loss of access to basic social services and deepening of negative coping strategies risk undermining Zimbabwe’s relatively high human capital and the pace and inclusivity of economic growth.

“Protecting livelihoods will require strengthening social protection and food security while also ensuring better education outcomes,” the World Bank report says.

In his state of the nation address on Sunday, Mnangagwa said because of the suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe was forced to take up vaccination seriously.

“When the vaccines around the world became available, we acted decisively and started using them. As a result, Zimbabwe is fast becoming Africa’s vaccination nation,” he said.