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Over 5 million Zimbabweans Living In Poverty

The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe has exposed over 5,3 million people to poverty a recent survey on Poverty, Income, Consumption and Expenditure has revealed.

Severe food insecurity has escalated during the 2018/2019 lean season (October – April), while access to basic services, and particularly healthcare, has become increasingly challenging due to the economic situation.

The recent survey suggests that about five million Zimbabweans are living in poverty and below the World Bank stipulated Poverty Datum Line (PDL).

Nearly 5.3 million people in Zimbabwe are estimated to be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection during the 2018/2019 lean season (October – April) and beyond.

In addition, 1.5 million people in urban areas, including major towns and secondary cities, are estimated to be facing severe food insecurity, while people in multiple locations across the country face acute shortages of essential medicines.

With the ongoing macro-economic crisis, there is a high likelihood that the situation will continue to deteriorate.

The most vulnerable households are experiencing moderate to large energy intake gaps, consuming a diet of very poor quality and engaging in accelerated depletion of assets through unsustainable livelihood coping strategies.

This rise in severe food insecurity has been driven by a combination of factors – including late rainfall, abnormally dry conditions and the worsening economic situation – which are likely to prolong the lean season at least until May.

Late and erratic rains have affected agriculture activities, such as land preparation and planting, and the 2019 harvest is likely to be delayed. In addition, infestations of crop pests, including Fall Armyworm and Tuta absoluta, have now spread to all provinces in the country, contributing to reduced crop production.

People’s capacity to withstand new economic shocks is severely compromised as the country has gone through repeated stresses since 2008. At the heart of the economic problems is a US$17 billion domestic and foreign debt and a $1.8 billion trade deficit that has worsened forex shortages.

A rapid snap survey carried out in October 2018 indicated high market volatility, as traders were aligning prices to the black-market exchange rate (RTGS 10:1 USD). The sharp increase in inflation (56.9 percent in February 2019 year-on-year), and 250 percent rise in fuel prices are directly impacting on poverty and hunger.

The impact of the economic crisis on people’s lives has led to demonstrations, unrest and growing concern regarding human rights violations. There were reports about people being killed, injured, detained, and alleged cases of sexual violence.

The disease rapidly spread mainly around two suburbs of Harare since September, and by early January 2019 more than 10,000 cases including 65 deaths across the country have been reported.

The country also has a high level of HIV prevalence, affecting more than 13 percent of the population.

In the face of rising needs, Zimbabwe’s healthcare budget is chronically underfunded and stocks of essential medicines, diagnostics and supplies have been depleted due to foreign currency shortages. Many private pharmaceutical suppliers now only accept United States dollars and have dramatically increased their pricing.

As a result, many people are unable to pay for basic health services, including vulnerable people living with chronic conditions such as tuberculosis and HIV, and refugees.

The risk of exposure to domestic violence and intimate partner violence are also expected to increase as a consequence of heightened family tensions caused by crop damages and income losses.

Migration due to hunger also increases the risk of sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and early and unwanted pregnancy.

Meanwhile, restrictions on employment, the encampment policy and limited livelihood activities leave refugees and asylum seekers dependent on the humanitarian assistance for food.

Lack of food, water scarcity and deteriorating access to livelihoods will impact the education of school age children, especially girls. School dropouts is reportedly already rising, as families prioritize food, performance of households’ chores and casual labor over school attendance.

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