“Famine anywhere is a tragedy, but when caused by a country’s government it is an unspeakable crime. This is what makes the starving millions in Zimbabwe different from those in other southern African countries enduring famine. Zimbabwe used to be the breadbasket of the region…Anyone who supports the political opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), or anyone who does not support Mugabe’s ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), is not sold food.”
(Gabrielle Menezes. THE NATION, May 12, 2003. “Letter From Zimbabwe”)
Menezes continues to explain that in Zimbabwe there are only three ways to get food:
1) Get a ZANU-PF card (supporting current Dictorial President Robert Mugabe)
2) Registering in a government “Food for Work” program. (Performing Public Labor ie. Repairing rural roads. Only catch is MDC supporters are not allowed to register for the food-do-work programs.
3) From International Food Aid Programs. The largest is the UN World Food Program, which contracts with local organizations to distribute its food aid. The catch is that NGOs used by the WFP need to be registered by the Zimbabwean government. Christian Care is one of the NGOs that give out WFP food.
“Some of the women have walked four miles; they will walk back the same way, gracefully balancing kilos of maize and beans on their heads, and with children tied around their waists. The signs of malnutrition are beginning to be visible in the children in the waiting crowd. Their bellies beneath ragged T-shirts are slightly distended; their twig-like arms are shrinking to bone. Their eyes are large in their faces. When asked, most of the children say they eat just one meal of sadza a day.”
Food in Rimai is kept in the schoolhouse, the only concrete building in the area big enough to store the hundreds of WPF maize bags. There’s not enough food for everyone, so community leaders compile the registers. However in such a politicized environment, this may not be such a good idea. Community leaders with political affiliations are able to manipulate the registers.
Often food distribution points have pictures of Mugabe and posters instructing people how to vote for ZANU-PF/Mugabe’s agenda (endorsing any political affiliation is prohibited by UN standards). As well Christian Care is often falsely accused of putting MDC posters in the food bags though all bags are sealed.
One of Christian Care’s program administrators was kidnapped by war veterans and held overnight
Christian Care is not the only NGO to experience problems. Some have quit serving in the distribution of food within Zimbabwe because of the pressures.
Though this information was recorded more than seven years ago. Economic conditions have only deteriorated under President Mugabe’s leadership.
“Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe began in the early 2000s, shortly after Zimbabwe‘s confiscation of white-owned farmland and its repudiation of debts to the International Monetary Fund, and persisted through to 2009. Figures from November 2008 estimated Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate at 89.7 sextillion percent.” (Hanke, Steve H. (17 November 2008). “New Hyperinflation Index (HHIZ) Puts Zimbabwe Inflation at 89.7 sextillion percent”. The Cato Institute. Retrieved 17 November 2008.)
“By December 2008, annual inflation was estimated at 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion percent (6.5 x 10108%, the equivalent of 6 quinquatrigintillion 500 quattuortrigintillion percent, or 65 followed by 107 zeros – 65 million googol percent).” (“The Printing Press” by Steve Hanke. Forbes Magazine, December 22, 2008)
In April 2009, Zimbabwe abandoned printing of the Zimbabwean dollar, and the South African rand and US dollar became the standard currencies for exchange. As of 2011 the currency has not been reintroduced yet.
As of 2009 Zimbabwe had a 95% unemployment rate (highest in the world) with 68% of the population living below the poverty line in 2004. http://www.theodora.com/wfbcurrent/zimbabwe/zimbabwe_economy.html
“”As of January 2006, the official poverty line was ZWD 17,200 per month (US $202). However, as of July 2008 this had risen to ZWD 13 Trillion per month (US $41.00). Most general labourers are paid under ZWD 200 Billion (US 60c) per month. A nurse’s salary in September was Z$12,542 (12 US cents), less than the cost of a soft drink.” (Matibe, Phil. “The Zimbabwe Situation”. The Zimbabwe Situation. Retrieved 5/30/10)
Under these conditions, the ones who suffer the most are mothers and their children from the time of conception throughout the rest of their short lives, they and their mothers’ lack pre-natal care, education and suffer severe malnutrition and are at high risk of cholera and HIV/AIDS. The average life expectancy of women in Zimbabwe is currently the lowest in the world— age 34.
More and more children are becoming orphaned and child mortality levels are on the rise. Ten million out of 13 million people in Zimbabwe live in poverty.
According to Save the Children:
“The four main hospitals in Harare have closed their doors to all obstetric cases, causing a vastly increased risk of death of mothers and babies during birth.”
In 1990, life expectancy was 60 years; in 2005 life expectancy for women had dropped to 37. Today, it stands at 34 – the lowest in the world. Zimbabwe is facing one of the worst HIV epidemics in the world – one in five adults (aged 15-49) are living with HIV and AIDS.
With inflation at an official level of 243 million %, (in reality in the billions), buying essentials such as food is an enormous struggle for most families, this combined with country wide food insecurity due to harvest failure has left around one-third of all children chronically malnourished with concerns that acute malnutrition is rising.
Many children are going without education – around 75% of state schools are not functioning properly because the majority of state teachers are not working as they are not paid enough to survive and have to look for or work for food. Many poor families are being forced to send their children out to find work or wild foods and simply can no longer afford to send them to school.
More to come about how you can help the children of Zimbabwe…