BULAWAYO Metropolitan Province has once again emerged as the place with the highest figures of heavy drinkers of alcoholic beverages, with a consumption rate of 38.3 percent compared to the national average of 32 percent.
However, the province is rated as having the least number of smokers in the country.
A Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) report released here yesterday at the 9th workshop to disseminate the Zimbabwe Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) for Matabeleland North Province, showed that people from Bulawayo Province are the biggest drinkers of alcohol in the country.
This is the second time that Bulawayo Province has topped the heavy drinkers’ charts following a separate report by Delta last year that revealed that residents spent almost $5,5 million on Chibuku opaque beer in nine months from April to December 2014.
This, critics said then and now, was an unusual trend for a city reeling under high figures of unemployment and disinvestment and with a population of only 650,000 based on the 2012 census.
Zimstat has been holding workshops countrywide to present findings of the survey it conducted between February and April 2014.
The survey was conducted on 17,047 households nationally, comprising 14,408 women in the age group 15-49 years and 7,914 men in the age group, 15-54 years.
Harare Province is number two at a distant 31 percent while Matabeleland South and Mashonaland Central provinces are the least drinkers of alcohol at 25.9 percent and 26.6 percent respectively.
Matabeleland North Province has a percentage of 27.2 while Midlands’ alcohol consumption is pegged at 28.9 percent.
The survey was carried out on those who had at least taken beer or any alcoholic drink in the month preceding the survey.
Masvingo and Mashonaland East province were at 20.3 percent each while Manicaland and Mashonaland West are both pegged at 29.6 percent.
At least 33.6 percent of drinkers are in urban areas while rural areas have 27.6 percent, according to the report. It states that the majority of alcohol drinkers are men but women residing in urban areas and with higher levels of education and from richer backgrounds had at least one alcoholic drink at any given time.
Courts have blamed alcohol consumption for the majority of criminal activities while a sizeable number of felons get away with lighter sentences with alcohol coming in as a special circumstance.
The Zimstat report also gave findings on tobacco smoking per province, where tobacco growing provinces topped the list. Twenty-seven percent of people from Mashonaland Central smoke tobacco, while Mashonaland West and Matabeleland North are at 22.6 percent. On tobacco, people in Bulawayo are the least smokers at 13.3 percent.
But some participants in the study queried its findings, saying Bulawayo would not have surpassed Harare considering the amount of disposable income in both cities.
“To say Bulawayo has heavy drinkers I don’t think it’s proper. How can people in Bulawayo drink more than people in Harare who have money?” asked one participant.
Another said: “You say Matabeleland North has the lowest uptake of contraceptives [but]why is the population low? You also talk of high alcohol use, these findings should be closely looked at because people in Bulawayo and the southern parts of the country have low buying power. This raises questions on how they consume all that beer.”
Zimstat also presented reports on child mortality, nutrition and health, malaria, water and sanitation, reproductive and maternal health, among others.
Taizivei Mungate, Zimstat’s social services director said the findings were useful in assessing the country’s strides in meeting some of its targets such as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“Our intention is to bring statistics closer to people. What remains now is for different departments to work together for a way forward because all we do is give statistics,” she said.
Meanwhile, in her closing remarks at the workshop, Matabeleland North Provincial Administrator, Latiso Dlamini, said statistics were critical to local government and for policy making.
“Statistics are important to policy makers as they show direction when key indicators are going off track and also steer investigation. These statistics will go a long way in shaping policy making in local government. I suppose Zim-Asset has been guided by some of these findings,” she said.-Chronicle