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Zimbabwean Hyperinflation Officially Estimated At 2.2 Million Percent

Zimbabwe's central bank governor made known on Wednesday that inflation has reached an annual rate of some 2.2 million percent in the first official disclosure of such data since the country's Central Statistical Office announced a rate of 165,000% for February.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono offered the estimate during a speech at the launch of a program the government said would make food and other basic commodities available to vulnerable segments of the population being hammered by hyperinflation.

Central Statistical Office Acting Director Moffat Nyoni confirmed the figure with the caveat that it was rough measure based on limited price data. His office stopped issuing inflation data after the February report, saying it could not obtain valid prices from stores.

President Robert Mugabe, launching the initiative, blamed Britain for the economic crisis and accused it of trying to achieve regime change in a bid to control Zimbabwe's resources.

British-based Zimbabwean economist Prosper Chitambara told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the inflation estimate of 2.2 million percent points to continued deterioration and a plunge "into the economic abyss."

Continually accelerating inflation spells disaster for many Zimbabweans who are barely able to feed themselves. More than 2 million Zimbabweans will be going hungry in the months ahead, according to the United Nations World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization, which say that figure could surge to more than 5 million by early next year.

WFP Southern Africa spokesman Richard Lee told VOA correspondent Delia Robertson that hyperinflation will have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable people in the country.

Zimbabwean consumer George Bhamu of the eastern city of Mutare said inflation is making it impossible for families to afford basic commodities they need to live day by day.

A Chivhu resident who asked to be identified only as Innocent, said inflation is obliging many Zimbabweans to make a living by means that are sometimes less than reputable

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