Our worst winter

Our worst winter
BY LITANY BIRD

Dear Family and Friends,
Zimbabwe apparently now has the highest inflation and the fastest shrinking
economy in the world. While those may be headline grabbing words, the
reality of living with it makes these the hardest of times

for us all.
Everywhere you go, everyone is talking about the dramatic increases in the
prices of food, medicines and services and undoubtedly this winter 2006 will
be the worst any of us can ever remember.

Going shopping has become a nightmare and budgeting impossible as the prices
keep changing. A dozen eggs marked on the shelf at Z$260,000 this week, was
actually Z$290,000 at the till. “It’s up,” the woman at the checkout
announced when I asked why there was a Z$30,000 difference in the three
metres from shelf to till.

Every week more and more things get crossed off the shopping list as they
become unaffordable. Cheese, fruit, eggs and cereals, all have become
luxuries now, bought rarely and used sparingly – for a treat. They join
goods crossed off the list a year ago when they also became too expensive;
things like yoghurt, sausages, bacon, coffee, nuts, fruit juice and fish.
These in turn join the things we gave up three or four years ago, things
that were bad for us anyway like fizzy drinks, chocolates, cigarettes and
alcohol.

913% inflation is so frightening that most people literally do not know how
they will make it from one month to the next. Food prices are just the tip
of the iceberg as hyperinflation rages into bills and services, swamps
medical and dental costs and makes clothes and shoes a complete
impossibility.

School fees are now due for the winter term and they have so many digits
that they look like long distance international telephone numbers. Talking
about telephones, at the top of this month’s phone bill is a statement that
reads: “Tariffs were increased from $1400 to $8609 per unit with effect from
3 Feb 2006.” The statement doesn’t mention that this is an increase of over
500%, it doesn’t offer a reason, excuse or apology – its just a case of pay
or be disconnected.

But, for as long as we can, we cling on to the routines of life, trying to
be “normal”, trying to hold our homes and families together, trying to keep
our children reasonably fed, clothed and in school. Until next week, ndini
Shamwari Yenyu

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