The continued increase in prices of goods in the country raises serious concerns over the nutritional status of people, especially children.
We raise this since the country has seen several rounds of price increases, putting the prices of many basic commodities beyond the reach of many families. According to Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat), it is quite clear that most employees earn salaries that fall well below the poverty datum line, that is, below what is required to afford the basics in any given month.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 there has been talk about immunity and underlying conditions that pre-dispose many to disease. Poor nutrition makes people susceptible to disease due to a lack of a balanced diet, enough vitamins and minerals that are necessary in boosting the body’s immunity. It is important that policy makers stay in touch with everyday realities of the population so that their interventions yield the desired result.
We are aware that the Government is subsidising a selected number of basic commodities, chief among them being roller meal. However, the subsidised mealie-meal is not reaching the majority of the people for whom it was intended, leaving many wondering who the subsidy is benefiting as families are either going hungry or continuously being ripped off by black market marketers who somehow have access to the cheaper mealie-meal that they sell at inflated prices.
We have heard calls for people to stop buying from such unscrupulous sellers. This, in most cases, is impossible since the residents’ options are limited in the face of the lockdown regulations. It would be easier to ignore the illegal sellers if it were possible to find subsidised mealie-meal at registered shops, such as supermarkets. It would not come as a surprise to see a spike in cases of malnutrition due to the shortage of affordable food and the high prices, that are pegged in US dollars that the majority have no access to. We have heard of social safety nets but it would seem the plight of the poor is slipping through such nets.
The twin evils of drought and the Covid-19 pandemic are wreaking havoc in our land, and coupled with our fragile economy, could undo the successes registered in terms of improving the welfare of children, especially in urban areas, where poverty levels are sometimes understated.
To lighten the burden on our already strained health systems, we need effective social safety nets that meet the nutritional requirements of our people, especially children. It is our view that as foreign exchange systems are changed, with the resultant initial volatility of rates, we shall see responsive measures to mitigate the shocks across the board.