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Zimbabwean youths now boiling baby nappies to get high as inflation soars

People are buying second-hand clothing shipped in bales from the UK and extracting residue from baby nappies to get high in Zimbabwe amid a cost of living crisis exacerbated by war in Ukraine.

Inflation has tipped 191.6 per cent in June in the country, where high unemployment, a weakening currency and lack of investment present a continuing headache for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

While one US dollar is officially trading at $362 Zimbabwe dollars, on the parallel black market it can be worth at least ZW$550. Across the country, most Zimbabweans now depend on buying second-hand clothing amid a spiraling cost of living crisis.

“It is a sign of how bad things are. Those are survival strategies. If you cannot go into a formal shop and buy clothes for $30 you go and buy second-hand clothing for $2,” Professor Gift Mugano, an economist, told i.

“There is economic hardship on the people, so people are buying second-clothing as a mitigation measure. It is not what the people want.”

He blamed the Zimbabwean government’s economic policies and corruption for the financial quagmire, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine compounding matters.

“The economy was in the intensive care unit before Russia war on Ukraine started,” Professor Mugano said. “The Russia-Ukraine war is piling misery on the person who is already in intensive care.”

The economic crisis has also driven young people to use ever more desperate means to get drunk and high. Some have been boiling new or used baby nappies with water to extract sodium polyacrylate – used in nappies or sanitary pads for its absorbency. The chemical dissolves once boiled and can be drunk in a liquid reportedly known by some as “juice of Pampers” after the nappy brand.
Using unorthodox ways to get high is common in Zimbabwe’s high-density suburbs, where idle unemployed youths cannot afford legal alcohol.

“Beer is too expensive – I cannot afford it. Crystal meth is cheaper and gets me very high for more hours than beer,” a 25-year-old man who refused to be named told i. “We know the health consequences but there is nothing we can do about it. What can we do? Nothing. This is Zimbabwe, things are hard. There are no jobs.”

In high-density areas, where poverty levels are high, it is common to see people drunk or drugged, sleeping on pavements or stuck by roadsides after abusing drugs such as crystal meth. The local slang word, “KuSticker” refers to people struggling to walk or talk after being drunk or high. – NZ

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