Letter: Zimbabwe's poor pay the price of 'progress'

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Sir: This week's visit of the Princess of Wales to Zimbabwe comes at a time when the needs of elderly and poor people in my country have never been greater. The ever increasing flow of our population into urban areas and the migration of young people with families in search of work often means that our older generation find themselves vulnerable and alone. Increasingly, without their families to support them, our parents and grandparents are struggling to survive.

There is urgent need for both government and international bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to take action. The economic reforms the IMF is encouraging in my country have hit poor and frail elderly people very hard by cutting far too quickly the amount of resources put into long-term social development in favour of economic competitiveness. Government health and education spending are being forced downwards with the result that the poorest and most vulnerable in society are almost exclusively bearing the burden of 'painful but essential' reforms.

There are signs of a realisation at the World Bank that their development strategy in Africa is failing to tackle poverty in Africa. However, we in Zimbabwe have seen no sign of a loosening of the structural adjustment strait-jacket which is leading to so much hardship.

A report just published by Christian Aid draws attention to our dilemma by showing that the structural adjustment programme of the IMF which underpins these reforms 'has had a devastating effect on health and education - but has failed to deliver the promise of economic progress'.

The poor and disadvantaged in Zimbabwe should no longer have to suffer in silence merely to further the cause of an illusory and failed economic 'progress'.

Yours faithfully,


Director, HelpAge Zimbabwe


13 July