Austerity Measures Further Worsening Zimbabwean Crisis amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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Austerity measures introduced by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube have exacerbated the Zimbabwean crisis, which government officials have always denied despite the 2020 Zimbabwe Humanitarian Report Response Plan (HRP) indicating that 7 million people in both urban and rural areas are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance across the country, compared to the 5.5 million projected in August 2019.

Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations Scaling Up Nutrition (ZSCOSUNA) Coordinator Kudakwashe Zombe told journalists in Harare that food and nutrition insecurity has become a reality in most rural and urban households.

“The COVID-19 pandemic severely threatens an already critical food and nutrition security situation arising mainly from the prevailing poor macroeconomic conditions and consecutive years of drought,” Zombe says.

“Drought and crop failure, exacerbated by macro-economic challenges and austerity measures, have directly affected vulnerable households in both rural and urban communities.”

The ZCSOSUNA coordinator went onto say that the impacts of COVID-19 and the consequences of the containment measures such as lockdown and restricted mobility are far-reaching.

“Both subsistence smallholder farmers and low-income urban households are affected and exposed to food and nutrition insecurity,” Zombe explained.

“In rural areas, there is disrupted farm produce chains in the country, impacting the livelihoods of farmers and the diets of rural and urban households.”

“While in urban areas the livelihoods of the urban poor which rely mostly on the informal sector (vendors, Kombi drivers) has been hugely affected with the COVID-19 lockdown protocols,” he went on.

ZSCOSUNA also recommended that food and nutrition assistance need to be at the heart of social protection programmes.

Zombe recommending said, “Guidance be provided to school staff, parents and children on the importance of safe and healthy diets, hygiene and physical activity for school aged children. Where possible school meal programmes should be continued using alternative transfer modalities including cash transfers and food deliveries at home.”

“Local authorities should set up new markets to prevent informal food traders over-crowding and ensure social distancing in traditional marketplaces.”

“There is need for the government, local authorities, international donors and the private sector to support smallholder subsistence farmers so as to ensure that the smallholder farmers and informal food traders (including street food vendors) have protective equipment and sanitizers as recommended by medical experts so that they can safely continue to produce, distribute and sell fresh produce.”

When Zimbabwe introduced a lockdown to contain the spread COVID-19 pandemic, government officials including the then Minister of Social Welfare Mavhima promised to give vulnerable urban dwellers $200 a month to survive the effects to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, but the challenged citizens complain that nothing has materialized.

The $200 has lost value due to the county’s inflation that has gone to over 800%.

Ncube’s austerity measures have resulted in the introduction of 2 cents a dollar tax which critics have attacked for taking more from the poor people in the country.

Ncube however last week promised to replace the austerity measures with another measure.

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