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Soaring Cost of Living Drives More Zimbabweans Into Poverty

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said the national bread basket index, a measure of the monthly cost of living for a family of six, surged in April to Z$41 million from Z$35 million in March, a rise of 17% in just one month. The Council noted major increases in food and non-food components, particularly education, sugar bread and health care.

The state-funded Council warned consumers to brace for more price increases in the wake of salary raises of up to 300% granted to civil servants - economists say wage increases will blow out the fiscal deficit and fuel already roaring inflation.

The Council said hyper-inflation which ran at a 12-month rate of over 900% in March is driving an increasing number of Zimbabwean families into abject poverty.

In evidence of this, the Bulawayo City Council this week disclosed that 29 children died in January in the Matabeleland capital from malnutrition-related causes. Officials there had suspended release of such statistics last year after the central government challenged their accuracy and pressured the city to stop issuing them.

For perspective on the fearsome rise in the cost of living, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to independent economist James Jowa.

Reporter Sithandikele Mhlanga asked Bulawayo Mayor Japhet Ndabeni Ncube about government charges that his administration's malnutrition death figures are wrong.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...