Poverty levels rise as COVID-19 hits Zim

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The poverty levels in Zimbabwe are likely to worsen as an effect of the COVID-19 global pandemic that has hit world economies resulting in business operations coming to a standstill in most countries.

For a country that has most of its citizens working in the informal sector and relying on hand to mouth, the lockdown enforced by government means they are unable to work and provide for their families.

In some cases, companies such as Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed Simbisa Brands are also laying off some of their workforce in a bid to remain in operation and to ensure they have salaries for their essential workers as business as slowed down.

According to latest data released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat), Zimbabwe’s food poverty line for one person in February 2020 was $419, a 4% increase from $401 in January while that for an average household of persons stood at $2 097, 5% up from $2004 in January.

The total consumption poverty line (TCPL) for one person in the same period was $1 059 from $898 in January, an 18% increase while for an average of five person household TCPL stood at $5 293, an 18% rise from $4 492 in January.

These figures are against the civil service salaries which have the highest paid civil servant (Grade E5) earning
$4 631 and the lowest paid (Grade B) earning $2 500 as of February 2020, salaries which indicate that the civil service in the country is considered poor as they earn salaries below the poverty datum line.

With those employed in the formal sector earning salaries that cannot cater for all their needs, odds are against those who are informally employed as they will suffer to make ends meet at a time that requires them to stock up enough food to sustain them during these uncertain times.

Already, not long after the lockdown was declared, a number of people in the country, mainly vendors have been out and about, selling their products as they fear dying from hunger more than dying from COVID-19.

Government measures to help an already struggling population will likely not do much to alleviate people’s suffering as seen in the past where for instance, despite the subsidising of maize meal being implemented, shortages are still been experienced.

Countries such as the United States and Hong Kong have made plans that will see their citizens getting money to ensure they are taken care of, but for a nation that is already faced with the need to fully equip its health systems which have been in shambles for years, the possibility of such an arrangement seems far-fetched.
— Equity Axis News