Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Pandemic Pain of Zimbabwe

 Even before the spread of COVID-19, millions of Zimbabweans were facing food shortages due to the combined effects of a devastating drought and a deepening economic crisis. Now, the situation is compounded by the coronavirus. The health emergency has found Zimbabwe in the mid of a severe economic crisis characterised by hyperinflation foreign currency shortages and a rapidly weakening domestic currency. With more than 90 percent of the cash-strapped country’s population unemployed and holding informal jobs, the coronavirus restrictions have piled more misery and suffering.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is making it especially hard for poor families to afford a nutritious diet, with lack of incomes, remittances and stressed livelihoods having a ruinous effect on vulnerable communities,” said Claire Nevill, spokesperson for the World Food Programme.

Nevill said the United Nations’ food agency estimates about half of all urban dwellers – roughly 2.2 million people – go to bed hungry, adding that some 3.4 million people, including more than a third of the rural population, are expected to face “crisis” or “emergency” levels of hunger in the first quarter – up from 2.6 million people a year ago.

 Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa extended the national lockdown by an additional two weeks. A ban on travelling between provinces remained in place, while a curfew was shortened to nine hours from 12 hours. Meanwhile, staffing levels at government offices was increased to 25 percent capacity from 10 percent, while private companies were allowed to open under strict adherence to World Health Organization guidelines and after testing.

In recent weeks, Zimbabwe has seen an exponential jump in confirmed COVID-19 infections. More than 35,000 cases of the respiratory disease have been recorded to date, almost double the total for all of last year, with nearly 1,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The official coronavirus death toll for the whole of 2020 stood at 409. More than 400,000 people have been arrested for violating lockdown regulations since the latest lockdown was enforced last month.

Zimbabwe says the coronavirus variant first discovered in neighbouring South Africa now makes up more than 60% of cases within its borders.

It is the first country outside of South Africa to report that the so-called "501.YV2" variant is the dominant strain. Botswana, Zambia, Ghana and the Gambia have also found some cases.

‘No choice’: Hunger forces Zimbabweans break COVID lockdown rules | Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

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