Empty stomachs and unpaid salaries, Zimbabweans face a bleak 2020 as economic crisis deepens

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Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN)In tattered blue overalls and torn gumboots, Blessing Mautsa, 34, a sand dealer in Harare’s Mbare-Magaba industrial market sits miserably in the shade, his crestfallen face is evidence of a day’s toil for little return. Mautsa’s only customer offered to buy a wheelbarrow of sand — a key ingredient in household construction works — at half the asking price. With little choice, he grudgingly agreed to sell at $70 Zimbabwean dollars (US$5 on the local interbank rate).The father of five said his family has been forced to cut down on meals as the price of basic commodities soars thanks to hyperinflation.”It has been a tough year. You simply cannot make enough to make ends meet,” Mautsa told CNN.”On a good day, I make $200 Zimbabwean dollars, but lately business has been going down because the traders are too many. Last year was better, I could even save money for my children’s school fees, but this year inflation has decimated my income.”

Risk of starvation

As well as hyperinflation, Zimbabwe has been hit by severe drought in parts of the country. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Tuesday that food supplies will run out in early 2020 unless urgent assistance is provided. “As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season — when needs are at their highest,” said Niels Balzer, the WFP’s deputy country director in Zimbabwe. “Firm pledges are urgently needed as it can take up to three months for funding commitments to become food on people’s tables.”The WFP announced earlier in the month that $293 million was needed to provide 240,000 tonnes of aid to vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe.Its director, David Beasley, has appealed to the international community to step up funding to address the root causes of long-term hunger in Zimbabwe.According to the UN, more than 2.2 million people in urban Zimbabwe and 5.5 million others in rural areas are at risk of starvation due to a drought in the last agriculture season and a prolonged dry spell.Poor rains have exacerbated the food crisis in the southern African nation which is also grappling with providing drinking water for its citizens.

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