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High cost of living pushes Zimbabweans to the brink

Jeffrey Carlos, centre, sits outside his house with his family on the outskirts of Harare on Wednesday, Aug, 3, 2022.   -  
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Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


In Zimbabwe, inflation jumped from 191% in June to 257% in July. A fast depreciating currency backed ordinary households into a corner. In addition to that, prolonged water shortages have meant that most Harare residents must source their own water.

At the Carlos, days often start off by fetching water. The family lives in Harare’s Mabvuku township. Rising prices and a fast depreciating currency have pushed many Zimbabweans to the brink. In addition to that, prolonged water shortages have meant that most residents of Zimbabwe’s capital must source their own water.

"There is no water coming out of our taps, so our life now is just to pump the borehole daily and carry buckets of water home", Christwish Carlos laments.

If the roundtrips are tiring, Carlos feels his family is lucky. The property they rent has a well and his family can haul up buckets of water to get some extra-money: "This is our gold, if we are lucky we can sell up to 12 buckets for US 2 dollars per bucket. This is how we are surviving."

Living conditions continue to worsen, inflation jumped from 191% in June to 257% in July. Many Zimbabweans fear the country is headed to dark times again when the southern African nation faced world-record inflation of 5 billion % in 2008.

"The plight of the ordinary person is such that it is difficult to really survive in this economy where prices are increasing on a daily basis", economist Prosper Chitambara said.

Gold coins

To prevent a return of such economic disaster, President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government introduced  gold coins as legal tender last month. 

The country's central bank, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said the 22-carat coins would help tame runaway inflation  and stabilize the nation's currency. The coins are at an average price of just below $2,000 (1.982 euros) per coin, depending on the international gold price. Many such as Carlos get by day by day, let alone earn enough to save.

So, before the expected effects become visible, Jeffrey and Christwish Carlos continue working multiple jobs.

Indeed, the 50-year-old man, says he gets about 100 US dollars a month from his job as an overnight security guard for a church and the bar next door. That's hardly enough to pay rent, school fees and other basic needs. Sometimes, he exchanges water for food items. Christwish, 43, also supplements the family income by doing household chores for better-off families in exchange for money or food items.

This evening, the family of five will be eating the staple maize (corn) meal and vegetables plucked from a small home garden which was prepared over a wood fire. Because of lengthy power cuts, the children do their homework by candlelight, although their parents press them to use it sparingly. Basic Items are now out of reach for many families.

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