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Afrobarometer: Zimbabwe GNU Reduced Poverty Levels

A survey carried out in 34 African countries by Afrobarometer, an independent research project that measures the social, political and economic situation in Africa, shows that Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity managed to reduce poverty levels in the country.

The findings of the survey released in Johannesburg on Tuesday indicate that despite such positive moves, most people in Zimbabwe are still struggling to make ends meet.

The survey carried out between October 2011 and June 2013, reveals that the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009 in Zimbabwe, generated peace that translated into substantial reduction in poverty levels.

Before the formation of the unity government in 2009, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF government had ruled the country since independence in 1980. By 2008, Zimbabwe was crippled by historic hyperinflation rates. There was no food in most shops and health facilities were almost in ruins.

Zimbabweans interviewed when the survey was conducted across the country said the situation had improved in accessing water, food, medical care and cooking oil since the GNU was established in 2009.

And Robert Matters, a professor at the University of Cape Town, said Zimbabwe is one of the only five countries where poverty reduction was recorded during that period.

Boniface Dulani, a researcher at the Afrobarometer, said it’s surprising how the GNU managed to reduce poverty at a time when poverty levels actually increased during the same period in countries with strong economies such as South Africa and Botswana.

However, many Zimbabweans still face challenges despite the reduced poverty levels. Twenty-one percent of Zimbabweans surveyed said they always experienced water shortages. About 20 percent indicated that they had problems accessing medical services.

Lack of clean water and sound sanitary services led to the country’s worst cholera outbreak in 2008 resulting in close to 100,000 reported cases and over 4,000 deaths.

Following violent presidential elections in 2009, the Southern African Development Community forced Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and the two Movement for Democratic Change formations led by then opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube to form a coalition government.