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Older Zimbabweans Lose Life Savings

HelpAge International

May 27, 2009 




Older people in Zimbabwe have lost their life savings after the country's new Unity Government suspended use of the Zimbabwean dollar for a year in April 2009.

The dollar had become a symbol of President Robert Mugabe's teetering rule: an ailing economy, high unemployment, collapsed infrastructure and social services.

More than half the 12 million population are reliant on emergency food aid.

The only currencies now in use are the South African rand, Botswanan pula and US dollar. For thousands of older people it means their savings are worthless and they cannot buy food and other essentials.

Kate Holt visited older people living in care homes across Zimbabwe to hear how the economic collapse has affected them.

Astimega's husband and all her eight children are dead. She told Kate Holt her story:

"We used to have cattle, but I sold them to relatives after my children died. I planned to use the money to look after myself because I knew that I would have no other source of income. Now it is worthless - nothing but a bag full of paper.

"When I had my family we had money to spend on essential items like sugar and soap and the occasional treat.

"Now I have nothing - no money, no land, no family, no animals. We used to live in a proper Africa. Our life now is nothing."

With no family and no resources, Astimega had to move into a care home. She says: "Since I came here I started to feel much better. I am happy. I have food, a roof over my head and new friends."

Smao enjoys working as a foreman for the care home's farm.

Smao lives in a care home in Zimbabwe. He says: “I am the foreman for the farm and am responsible for managing the fields.

"We grow maize, sorghum and some other cereals depending on the weather.

“I also look after the piggery. This is very important because it provides us with meat to eat and we can sell a pig if the farm needs extra money.

“People think that as older people we just want to sit around and be looked after, but I like working. I like being here in Mazowe because I can still work as an older person.”

The homes are supported by HelpAge Zimbabwe and HelpAge International, with funding raised through Help the Aged's Sponsor a Grandparent programme.

They are helping older people get back on their feet and earn an income by running piggery and other farming projects.

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