Zim warned over corona


Sindiso Mhlophe




THE United Nations has warned Zimbabwe that it will be hit hard by the lethal coronavirus, unless authorities secure enough resources to mitigate the disease’s effects, the Daily News reports.

This comes as the country is also reeling from the effects of the severe drought which ravaged the southern African region, leaving more than eight million Zimbabweans facing hunger.

In its preliminary assessment of the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 on Zimbabwe, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) urged the government to mobilise more resources and curb illicit financial flows to avoid national implosion.

“A stable macro-economic environment is a sine qua non (an essential condition) for economic growth, investments, job creation and poverty reduction.

“A recent study by McKinsey and Company has reported that left unchecked and especially in the absence of a fiscal stimulus, the pandemic will lead to a 3,8 percentage point decline in GDP growth in the (African) continent.

“For Zimbabwe, whose economy contracted by an estimated 6,5 percent in 2019, continued contraction in the magnitude highlighted above or more, given the fragility of the economy, would be disastrous — affecting, disproportionately, the poor and vulnerable, small and informal businesses, as well as small-scale agricultural producers,” it said.

It further said lack of foreign currency and a general global slowdown in supply chains, coupled with restrictions in moving goods across border swiftly, would negatively affect food imports to meet the domestic shortfall — as Zimbabwe heavily relied on imports.

“Delayed imports of goods could increase shortages of basic consumer and intermediate goods and thus fuel further inflationary pressures in the country.

“These, together with wide currency fluctuations and possible rising debt, in the wake of the increased demand for goods and services for effective response to the pandemic, could dampen growth further and discourage the much-needed investments thus leading to an increase in the incidence of poverty,” the report said further.

This comes as Zimbabwe is reeling from one of its worst economic crises in a decade, which has seen the country experiencing acute shortages of foreign currency amid skyrocketing prices of basic goods.

The worsening economic rot has triggered restlessness among ordinary Zimbabweans.

Despite being feted like a king when he first replaced the late former president Robert Mugabe, via a popular military coup in November 2017 – President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his government have found re-building the broken economy a tough ask.

The UNDP said further in its report that food insecurity was set to worsen in the country, leading to a rise in cases of malnutrition and stunting in children.

“Zimbabwe receives an estimated US$1 billion in remittances from its diaspora community annually.

“Remittances are expected to decline as countries hosting significant numbers of Zimbabwe’s diaspora community such as South Africa are affected due to a slowdown in economic activity and the current lockdown resulting in job losses and reduced incomes.

“Given the important role of remittances in sustaining livelihoods in Zimbabwe, a decline in remittances will further compromise access to basic social services and increase vulnerability for many households,” the report added.

The UNDP also highlighted that women’s, and especially adolescent girls’ reproductive rights, were likely to remain unmet as the government re-prioritises expenditures towards the fight against the pandemic.

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