Covid-19; Zimbabweans fell into extreme poverty

Poverty in Zimbabwe increased significantly during the 1990s, and it increased in all sectors of the economy. In the middle of the decade, more than 60 percent of Zimbabwean households fell below the national poverty line.

During the Covid pandemic, the number of Zimbabweans extreme poverty has reached 7.9 million. The pandemic has delivered another economic shock to the country.

“The number of extreme poor is expected to remain at 7.9 million in 2021 amid continued elevated prices, and a slow recovery of jobs and wages in the formal and informal sectors,” according to the report.

Statistics and trends are hardly able to convey the magnitude of the current crisis in Zimbabwe. Its economy is shrinking fast, with GDP contracting by 40 percent between 2000 and 2007. Agricultural production (by volume) has reduced by 50 percent in the same time period, and as of May 2007, inflation was around 300 percent per month. An estimated 80 percent of adults in the economically active age group are unemployed and over 85 percent of Zimbabweans are now categorized as poor. Moreover, the HIV incidence rate is one of the highest in the world, and life expectancy for women, at 34 years, is one of the lowest in the world (down from 65 years a decade ago).

The pandemic badly hit 1.3 million Zimbabweans to lose their jobs and income. According to the survey, in July 2020 nearly 500,000 households had one member who had lost their job since the onset of the pandemic. It also forced more households into intermittent or prolonged suffering. The most common stated reason for losing a job in urban areas was business closure due to the lockdown,” the report said.

While wages dropped, 23% of the poorest people, who were working before Covid-19  had lost their jobs by June 2020, adding thousands to the unemployment numbers.

“Among the non-poor, this figure was also high at 20%. As fewer of the poor were working even before the pandemic, the proportion of households affected by job losses is about the same for both the poor and the non-poor,” the report said.

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