COVID-19 VS POVERTY: The Zimbabwean Population’s Dilemma

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How long will African countries contain lockdowns induced yy COVID-19? The biggest challenge that the African general population faces is food security and poverty, the people are more worried about diying form hunger than Covid-19. The publlic health system in many African countries is in dire straits and millions lives could be lost if the corona virus infection cases are not managed well.

Zimbabweans are dealing with a severe economic crisis and the majority of the population fear regional and global measure to curb coronavirus will kill them first. The cost-benefit analysis of these measures yields a different result in Africa than in Europe, North America and large parts of Asia.

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Lockdown is being recommended and appear to have helped containment efforts in China, South Korea and many other European, American and African countries have implemented lockdown measures to control the speed of infections. The difference is for Zimbabweans with approximately 80% unemployment, it is proving difficult to implement total lockdown for a population which live from hand to mouth. Zimbabweans are prioritizing to go out to look for food where they join ques where social distancing is not observed.

People queuing in Harare to buy LP Gas for domestic use

“It’s not practically possible to lock down in an informal economy without any form of relief to the needy,” Shami Fred, an epidemiologist, told Al Jazeera.

“Yes, the whole world is on lockdown, it’s the right thing to do. But without water, it’s a futile and grave exercise. Electricity, among other must-haves, is scarce.”

“If the taps were working, we wouldn’t be here, swarming the well like bees on a beehive or flies on sewage. We are busy exchanging coronavirus here, coughing and spitting saliva at each other,” a resident said while waiting her turn.

Water buckets queuing for water in Harare Suburbs

Lockdown has immediate ramifications for individuals who live on a hand-to-mouth basis, and for their networks of dependents. If people cannot eat, they will not obey a lockdown; nor is there any reason, practical or moral, for them to do so.

“I don’t know how I will be surviving during the lockdown period, I hustle for food every day, and it’s going to be a challenge for me and my family.”

“We know there is corona[virus] in the country, but we will die of hunger first if we don’t get mealie meal,”

At the bottom of the global pile, recession isn’t just a matter of falling property prices and disappointing pensions, it’s a matter of life and death. When we lock down, we are making a choice. We are saving the lives of some older people, and causing the deaths of some younger people, especially children, who are most at risk of malnutrition and diseases of poverty.

However unenviable the predicament of African leaders, the continent’s residents are to be envied even less. Many face more severe and immediate threats to life, not least pneumonia, which is the mechanism by which Covid-19 kills.

And it doesn’t take much reflection to realise that we’re not really locking down, given how many people live in overcrowded accommodation where the nearest sanitation is a shared facility at considerable distance from your shack or in rural areas.

It’s time that African leaders, get themselves advisers who are awake to the differences between Africa and the places where lockdown was conceived, and who are willing and able to model the full consequences — not just death by Covid-19 — of a full range of measures.

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