ALMOST half of Zimbabweans faced extreme poverty owing to combined effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and an increase in the price of basic necessities in 2020.

This is according to the Zimbabwe Poverty Update 2017-2019 and 2021 Rapid Poverty Income Consumption and Expenditure Survey (PICES) round three results released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) yesterday. 

“Almost half the population in Zimbabwe was in extreme poverty in 2020 due to the combined effects of increase in the price of basic necessities, economic contraction caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and poor harvests,” ZimStat director-general Taguma Mahonde said. 

The ZimStat survey was conducted in partnership with the World Bank and Unicef after they designed a high-frequency telephone survey of households to measure the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 on households in the country. 

A sample of 1 800 households was drawn from the 2019 mini PICES. The rapid PICES project, which was first embarked on in June 2020, will be completed in November 2021. 

The second round was conducted from August to September 2020, whilst the third round was conducted from mid-December to mid-March 2021. 

World Bank country manager Mukami Kariuki said ZimStat had made significant progress, as evidenced by the successful collection of data from 1 774 households in the first round, 1 664 in the second round and 1 235 households in the third round. 

“The pandemic’s socio-economic effects continue to cause suffering in communities. The Rapid-PICES exercise captures policy-relevant information that can be used to design strategies to assist communities and mitigate the impact of the pandemic.  

“From this round, the findings reveal that while employment has increased from 51 percent in July 2020 to 57 percent in early 2021, the recovery has only been partial as employment level has not reached the pre-pandemic level thereby contributing to increasing poverty in the country,” Kariuki said. 

On his part, Unicef representative Tajudeen Oyewale said the third survey that was concluded in March this year found that the pandemic mainly affected children. 

“As results of this round of the survey show, only 40 percent of children were engaged in some form of remote learning, while access to essential health interventions has reduced. 

“Social protection coverage has also been impacted, and I call upon all stakeholders to come together to support the country’s protection programmes,” Oyewale said. 

“Key results from the third round survey found that 63 percent of the population said it would definitely or likely get the vaccine if it was available free of charge; food insecurity level remained high, with 61 percent of the total population and 71 percent of the rural population in severe or moderate food insecurity; and 61 percent of agricultural households in the third round survey participated in Pfumvudza, a government led agricultural programme for small scale farmers,” he added. 

Regarding households that needed medical treatment, Oyewale said a slightly lower fraction representing 84 percent was able to access it in the third-round survey compared to 86 percent in the second round. 

“Lack of money was the primary reason for not being able to access medical treatment. In the third-round survey, 91 percent of school-age children were attending school. 

“However, the Covid-19 pandemic continued to play a negative role in keeping children out of school,” he said further. 

The PICES is a critical survey which provides critical data that is used by the government in informing national policy for social welfare programmes; poverty mapping; and studying income disparities among socio-economic groups among other vital information that is used across all sectors. – Daily News