Between 2018 and 2019, the number of people living in extreme poverty in Zimbabwe rose from 29% to 34%. That’s an extra million people living on less than $1.90 a day in the span of just one year.
An El Nino-influenced drought and Cyclone Idai has reduced agricultural production over several seasons, worsening the situation across many rural areas. The economic contraction has caused a sharp rise in prices of food and basic commodities and one tenth of rural households currently indicate they are going without food for a whole day. The unemployment rate has been estimated at 90%. All of this was before COVID-19 hit the world.
These pressures are exacerbating problems for the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe, creating higher rates of human trafficking, child abuse, gender-based violence and discrimination against people with disabilities.
Despite the huge challenges, the Zimbabwean people remain generous and resilient.
Our partners the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) and its relief and development agency, the Methodist Development and Relief Agency (MeDRA) play a vital role in serving their communities and advocating for the people in national politics.
COVID-19 response and MCZ project update
Our partners MCZ acted early to help flatten the curve with a campaign to raise awareness across their communities.
COVID-19 could not have come at a worse time for Zimbabwe, exacerbating already incredibly difficult conditions outlined above. Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate soared more than 500 percent in February, the unemployment rate remains over 90 percent, medicines are scarce and over half of the population is food insecure.
Zimbabwe began a lockdown on 30 March, but many people who rely on being able to go out on the streets to sell produce just to meet their daily needs will face a choice between going hungry for days on end or putting themselves and others at risk of the virus.
At a time when handwashing is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, there are many households who don’t have access to running water; in the capital city Harare alone this amounts to one million people.
This is the context our partner MCZ is working within and the enormous challenges being faced in Zimbabwe’s efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.
The lockdown requirements mean that MCZ is unable to continue some of their scheduled activities under the Leadership Training project, such as delivering workshops for lay and ordained leaders. However, many project activities are able to continue despite the situation and MCZ is focusing their efforts in these areas.
One of the activities is obtaining baseline information about church and community awareness relating to child protection, gender based violence, disability inclusion and human trafficking issues. Until in person consultations can be completed, MCZ will obtain information using email, telephone and social media platforms like Whatsapp. MCZ will also focus on developing church-wide policies relating to safeguarding and disability inclusion and in developing training resources that will be valuable once workshops are able to take place.
We continue to support their work and stand with them during these extremely hard times.
Please pray for Zimbabwe and the work of our church partners there.
UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.