5.4 percent of Zim Households received Govt COVID-19 social assistance: Survey

Approximately 5.4 percent of Zimbabwean households received Government social protection assistance in the form of COVID-19 cash transfers, 3.3 percent got food and grain assistance, as well as the Government public works programme between 2020 and 2022 the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (Zimstat) said in a survey report.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

Zimstat conducted a Rapid PICES Monitoring Telephone Survey is based on Poverty, Income, Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (PICES) from July 2020 to August 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic created an urgent need for timely statistics to help monitor and mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the crisis. The statistics are essential to inform policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation processes.

“Responding to this information need, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), with technical and financial support from World Bank and UNICEF, designed a high-frequency telephone survey of households to measure the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe,” said Zimstat.

The Government in 2020 had social protection measures program to cushion Zimbabweans against the impact of COVID-19. Social protection measures such as social safety nets provided direct support either in the form of cash or in-kind goods and services to smooth consumption, compensate for loss of incomes, or prevent falls into poverty.

“The Government introduced safety nets on households to mitigate against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At national level, 2.0 percent of the households received COVID-19 cash transfers, 3.3 percent received food/grain and 0.1 percent received assistance from public works program.

“The proportion of households in urban areas who received COVID-19 cash transfers was 6.3 percent compared to 0.3 percent for rural households. In contrast, share of rural households who received food aid was 4.9 percent,” read the report.

The report stated that rural households were finding it hard to buy medication as the proportion dropped to 62 percent from 69 percent.

“Twenty-four percent (24%) of households needed medicines or treatment in round 8, compared to 22 percent in round 7. Of these households, 75 percent were able to buy medicine compared to 74 percent in round 7. In rural areas, the proportion dropped to 62 percent, from 69 percent in round 7 (Figure 8). However, in urban areas, the proportion of households that were able to buy medication increased from 82 percent to 95 percent in round 8,” Zimstat said. “Further, the proportion of households that were able to access treatment increased from 78 percent in round 7 to 83 percent in round 8. The same pattern was observed in urban areas, where the proportion increased from 78 percent in round 7 to 94 percent in round 8. The percentage of households that were able to access treatment in rural areas remained constant at 78 percent.”

Commenting on the social protection status, UNICEF Zimbabwe Country Representative Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale said he was worried with the reduced access to medication in rural areas.

“Looking at the presentation, I also see some mixed results relating to accessing service. Of note to me is the ability of households in rural areas to access medical treatment or pay for medication is showing a downward trend since the 6th round of data collection. In fact, access to medical treatment has declined from 89 per cent in round 6 to 76 per cent in the current round,” Dr Oyewale said.

Dr Oyewale also encouraged stakeholders to support the country’s social protection programmes.

“I am personally also worried about how the pandemic has impacted on social protection coverage. We have seen from the results that the reach of interventions has been constrained and resulted in poor coverage of the most vulnerable. Survey results show that the proportion of households receiving COVID-19 related assistance is standing at 5.4% against the growing number of vulnerable households. I urge all stakeholders to come together and support the country’s social protection programmes,” he said.

World Bank Zimbabwe Country Manager Ms. Marjorie Mpundu said the coverage of social assistance is still low.

“Second, more than two years after the pandemic, the coverage of social assistance program remains low compared to the need. Despite many people losing their jobs, livelihoods and income, the coverage and adequacy of social assistance did not increase in response to the large systemic shock of the pandemic,” she said.

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