Remittances from Zimbabweans working abroad are sustaining up to 50 percent of Zimbabwe's households. That is according to a report by the Global Poverty Research Group, a Britain-based organization. Some respondents to the survey reported that, without help from abroad, they would be unable to afford basic necessities, such as food and clothes.
The survey of 300 households in the capital Harare and Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, found that many Zimbabweans are dependent on relatives working outside the country for survival.
The report says most of the remittances are in the form of basic goods, such as food and clothing, which are mostly delivered by relatives or others returning to Zimbabwe to visit.
In the case of money, many Zimbabweans prefer to send their money by informal means to avoid the low bank exchange rate of 100,000 Zimbabwe dollars to one U.S. dollar. They can get five times that rate on the black market. Rather than send cash, which some respondents say is quickly depleted due to Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, some send clothes and other goods, which their relatives sell.
The report says, in some cases, the remittances go beyond providing basics, as some use the money to buy commercial vehicles, to build homes or set up businesses. Some people also sent home luxury goods.
The remittances make the difference between starvation and having food on the table for many of the respondents. Some also said they have money to pay school fees or purchase school uniforms for their children. The report says 90 percent of the households surveyed were below the poverty line.
A Harare civil servant, speaking on condition of anonymity, told VOA that the money sent by her husband in Britain is sustaining her and their three children. She said that her salary falls far short of what she needs to provide for the family.
Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, characterized by more than 80 percent unemployment and close to 1,200 percent inflation. An estimated three million people of Zimbabwe's population of 12 million have left the country in search of better opportunities.