Over two years, between 22 March 2020 and 8 February 2022, Zimbabwe has recorded a total of 5,367 Covid deaths within a population of almost 17 million. That calculates as 16 deaths per 100,000 per year. There was never a “Covid pandemic” in Zimbabwe. However, the response to it – lockdowns and restrictions – have devastated the population, particularly the poorest.
The impact of the “pandemic” in sub-Saharan Africa remains markedly lower compared to the Americas, Europe and Asia. South Africa, the outlier, was the worst affected country in the region. And 33% of Covid-19 outbreaks in South Africa occurred in long-term care facilities during the “first wave.”
But the same cannot be said of lockdowns, restrictions and “containment” measures. Relatively few countries in the world offered financial assistance to their populations during Covid lockdowns and restrictions. The remainder of the world’s population, such as in Africa, simply suffered under the draconian measures with no income and, in many cases, reduced to near starvation.
From The First Lockdown
In Zimbabwe, the abrupt announcement of the first, and then extended, Covid lockdown gave informal sector vendors little time to organise their savings and stock up on food.
“Vendors state that they cannot afford to be home and not work, whilst going out to work exposes them to police violence and potentially contracting the virus,” the Institute of Development Studies reported on 20 May 2020, six weeks after the first “21 day” lockdown was imposed.
“If I don’t go to work, my whole family will die of hunger – so what difference does it make? It is better to take the risk of getting the coronavirus than to see my family starve to death,” stated one such vendor. At the time many had reduced their food intake to two meals a day and the quantity of their food portions to save the little they had.
A month before, one week after the nationwide lockdown was imposed, it was reported that over 5000 households in a Mashonaland West town were starving and in urgent need of food assistance as the lockdown took its toll on impoverished residents.
Two years later and lockdowns and restrictions continue to take their toll in Zimbabwe. A UNICEF report published on 1 February 2022 stated:
“Containment measures introduced in 2021, which included lockdowns, school shutdowns, and curfews severely affected business operations and had deleterious impacts on industry, and the informal sector and eroded the fragile livelihoods of the vulnerable population of Zimbabwe … with 2.4 million people in urban areas becoming food insecure.”