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Why is Zimbabwe starving?

22 Jul 2022 at 06:43hrs | Views
LONG-STANDING financial troubles and drought in Zimbabwe have pushed millions to the brink of starvation.

Government has declared a state of disaster as months of drought have exacerbated a national crisis rooted in decades of mismanagement under long-time leader Robert Mugabe.

More than five million people, roughly one-third of the population, are in need of food aid, according to the World Food Programme.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the United Nations have made a broad appeal for international assistance, but analysts say that Zimbabwe is now at a breaking point, and the main opposition party called for a nationwide strike to take place Friday.

Drought has hit as the country's economic woes — hyperinflation and cash shortages foremost among them — have deepened. The inflation rate stood last month at around 175%, the highest in a decade, and the Finance ministry has since said it will not release inflation statistics in the coming months. Prices of staple foods, such as bread and cooking oil, have risen by as much as five times over recent months. Medical supplies are becoming more scarce, and some people are forgoing medicines or treatment because of high costs.

Water scarcity has led to crop failures, pushing food insecurity to new highs, and raises the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera spreading.

Government is distributing food to Zimbabweans in cities for the first time. As the output of a major hydroelectric plant has dwindled, the State power utility has imposed rolling blackouts lasting up to 18 hours per day.

But how did Zimbabwe get here?

Zimbabwe descended into financial calamity under the 37-year rule of the now late Robert Mugabe, who is widely accused of mismanaging the economy as he consolidated power through patronage and repression. The country's per capita income fell by half over the decade that started in 2000.

While Mugabe was forced out in a 2017 military coup, the economic crisis has continued under Mnangagwa. Price hikes at the start of 2019 prompted protests and a violent crackdown by security forces.

In June, Mnangagwa outlawed a payment system that allowed use of the US dollar and ordered that a local quasi currency be used exclusively, causing prices to soar.

Austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund, including cuts to fuel subsidies and a new tax on electronic transactions, appear to have placed even more stress on Zimbabweans.

Mnangagwa has promised an economic recovery, but the United States and Europe have kept up sanctions on the country and the prospect of an international bailout remains dim.

Government has in the past imported electricity from neighbouring countries, and has signed deals for 20-year loans with China and India to boost power generation, but in the meantime, the long outages are taking a heavy toll on businesses and families.

Factories, which were previously exempt from the blackouts, have reported drastically cutting production since then, leaving industry effectively at a standstill and many workers without an income.

Source - NewsDay Zimbabwe
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