AfricaBusiness & Finance

Economic crisis: Millions will face starvation

By Tatenda Marwodzi

Poor rains, rising inflation and the weakening currency are the order of the day for the approximately 14 million individuals living in Zimbabwe. An estimated 95% are unemployed. Of them, 5.5 million living in rural areas will face starvation due to the unending drought.

“We will run out of food by end of February”, says Niels Balzer, Zimbabwe deputy director for the United Nations (UN) World Food Program (WFP). According to the UN, if the country does not receive 240 000 tones in food aid within the next three months, many will suffer from hunger.

The current drought is the worst to be experienced in over ten years. Temperatures are rising astronomically affecting crops and water supply. “Bulawayo is running dry and if it does not rain soon, the remaining water will not last seven months”, claims Solomon Mguni, who is the mayor for Zimbabwe’s second largest city Bulawayo which had to decommission two of its largest dams in the past twelve months. According to him, lack of water for basic needs will be the biggest problem for the year. Both humans and livestock will suffer the consequences.

To add to Zimbabwe’s woes, prices of basic commodities have skyrocketed in the past few months while salaries and wages have remained stagnant. Civil servants who are the majority of the working population earn a paltry salary of Z$1023 equivalent to US$63 at the interbank rate. A salary that was once pegged to the US dollar at 1:1 has been eroded by weakening exchange rates.

Fuel prices have gone up to Z$18 from Z$3 a litre in January 2019. For the same period, a loaf of bread has gone up from Z$3 to Z$18 while cooking oil skyrocketed from Z$4 to Z$50 for a two litre bottle.

The government was unprepared for the drought. While government assured the public that it will introduce subsidies on basic commodities, it has failed to deliver on its promise. And with lack of foreign investments farmers were not equipped for the drought, basically the country had no plan B in place.

The only feasible hope now lies with foreign food aid from organizations such as the United Nations to rescue Zimbabweans from hunger.

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