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Zim’s poverty levels surge

Zim’s poverty levels surge

Nelson Chenga 30 May 2013

LEVI NYAGURA.jpg 1THE past four years of economic stability have failed to exorcise the specter of poverty that has troubled the nation for more than a decade now, a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) study has revealed.
Data from 16 of the country’s 63 districts surveyed by the UZ is an embarrassing reminder to a nation that once produced food so abundantly that it fed other nations across the sub-region.
Unveiled last week, the sample survey by the UZ’s Institute of Environmental Studies, indicates that 81 percent of sampled households lived in poverty, reaching 95 percent in rural areas.
Forty-four percent of the sampled households lived in extreme poverty, reaching 68 percent in rural areas.
These findings are contained in a 100-page book titled Under-standing Poverty, Promoting Wellbeing and Sustainable Development.
It reveals that Zimbabwe is characterised by a multiple of economic, social and natural shocks such as recurrent drought, food shortages, inflation, illness and HIV and Aids as well as loss of government or donor support.
These factors have rendered the majority of the population vulnerable and impoverished.
The country’s rising poverty levels, the deteriorating natural environment and unrelenting HIV and Aids pandemic have also largely contributed to a resurgence of tuberculosis, a serial killer disease that thrives on immune systems weakened by chronic infections and malnutrition.
Trapping the majority of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people in poverty is lack of quality employment, low total productivity in both agriculture and general economy, nagging health issues and most interesting, lack of education in a country that is Africa’s most literate at more that 90 percent literacy rate.
“The levels of poverty are so deep that any small incremental adjustments to income will take a long time to have an impact. Therefore there is need to introduce continued and scaled-up innovative social protection, consisting of a package of cash transfers; cash (or food) for work; as well as educational and health assistance … Zimbabwe would have to spend 52,8 percent of the poverty line each month on each poor household to raise them above the poverty line,” says the report.
The report highlights a serious paradox between the high poverty levels and the country’s abundant natural resources such as gold, diamonds, platinum, wild-life, forests and vast tracts of fertile land.
UZ vice chancellor, Levi Nyagura hoped that the survey results would not end up in the dustbin where many of the country’s brilliant reports have landed soon after completion.
“We need to use the information to improve the welfare of the people identified in the researches we carry out. Surveys should help the country to come up with meaningful policies and interventions,” said Nyagura.
Secretary for Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, Desire Sibanda, strongly believes that to unshackle the poverty-stricken Zimbabweans, the poor need to be empowered.
“The empowerment of the poor and the marginalised is critical to ensure sustainable poverty reduction rather than subjecting them to a dependence syndrome.
“Empowering the poor is essential for bringing about the policies and investments needed to promote pro-poor growth and address the multiple dimensions of poverty,” said Si-banda.
Earlier this month, MDC president Welshman Ncube told journalists that the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act that has previously been used to shut down a number of newspapers needs to be revised to bring it in line with the new Constitution.
Last week, the Southern African Development Community held an extraordinary summit where it resolved that Zimbabwe must prepare for fresh polls.
However, ZANU-PF’s plans for polls to be held by June 29 appear dead in the water as the Zimbabwe electoral Commission has announced that a fresh 30 day voter registration exercise is on the cards.