Inflation in Zimbabwe hit more than 700 per cent in August 2020 CREDIT: AARON UFUMELI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shutterstock
Desperate Zimbabweans are boiling used nappies to get high in a new drug craze as the country struggles to recover from its latest economic crisis.
“They scrape [the nappies clean] and then boil them [with a small amount of water] and a thickish white stuff emerges, and this is then put into the bottom of jars and sold,” one user told The Telegraph in the Epworth suburb, a squalid settlement in Harare’s outskirts.
Drug users said that the sodium polyacrylate — the absorbent part of a nappy — got them high enough to carry on with their grim daily lives with more confidence.
Mirriam, a 23-year-old single mother, said that she took the nappy mixture to give her the courage to do sex work.
“I only take a little so as to give me courage to do my work, because it’s not easy to sleep with anyone anytime, especially strangers, but I don't have a choice because the father of my child ran away to South Africa and my parents chased me from home,” she says.
Zimbabwe’s economy has not fully recovered from the economic turmoil caused when President Robert Mugabe seized about 90 per cent of the white-owned farms in the early 2000s.
Since President Mugabe’s 37 years in power ended with a coup d’etat nearly five years ago, the economy has staggered from one crisis to another, with inflation hitting more than 700 per cent in August 2020.
While things have begun to pick up in recent months as commodity prices surge due to the war in Ukraine and tourists begin to trickle back after the pandemic, high levels of unemployment keep millions locked in poverty and hunger.
The lack of social safety nets has led to people working out innovative and cheap ways of getting high and the "Juice of Pampers", as some locals call it, is far cheaper than even the budget form of drugs on the market.
According to reports, security forces are on high alert for an eventual outbreak of civil disobedience as the economic crisis in the country worsens.
“They know that there is a realistic likelihood of an uprising and every effort is being made to thwart it,” a source told New Zimbabwe, a leading national news website. “The president himself has consistently been given security situation reports indicating the ground is fertile for upheaval and that is why he is frequently talking about economic saboteurs. It’s a delicate situation,” the source added.
Another source claimed that the country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has laced his recent speeches with threats against a potential uprising. In one speech at an event for Zimbabwe’s youth, Mr Mnangagwa said: “If you protest, we will arrest you. Make money.”
One user called Isaac says that most people on the street cannot afford similar hits like a popular mixture of cough syrup mixed with alcohol and cannabis known locally as ‘Bronclear’.
Strength to get through the day
The nappy mixture “gives me a lot of strength when I am doing my job. I work as a part-time gardener for several homes and I earn US$5 per day (£4), which is not enough to care for my daughter and feed us,” said the 25-year-old.
Users said another informal name on the street for the nappy mixture is called "Mutoriro", which means "drunk to the last degree".
David Masamvi, a 43-year-old, said that for “20 Bond” (about two pence), he “will be plastered the whole day” and will “not even worry about food or women.”