The country woke on Saturday to news of an overnight price rise that left bread 60% more expensive than the previous day.

The southern African country's official statistics agency announced that the annual inflation rate - already the highest in the world - was heading towards 1000%.

Zimbabwe's main state media tucked the bad news in the middle of bulletins dominated by what critics call "useless speeches" by officials from the government of Robert Mugabe, the president.

But the new 913.6% inflation rate still announced itself loudly on the streets of Harare where survival remains a challenge even to citizens well practiced in the art.

Survive the tide

Like the rest of her compatriots, Shamiso Mapanga said she has learned to live one day at a time.

The 38-year-old assistant accountant and her teacher husband have long stopped trying to calculate how much money their family of four needs for groceries every month.

"It is an impossible and extremely stressful exercise," she said at a Harare supermarket on Saturday where she was forced to leave behind one of the three loaves of bread she wanted to buy because the price had risen to Z$95,000 ($0.958) from Z$60,000 overnight.

"I am sick to the bone with all these things," she said.

"How are we expected to survive, and how long is this going to last? I think only God knows how it will all end."

A man in the same queue said: "I am going with the flow but at the same time praying that we survive the tide."

Economic crisis

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says an average family of five needs at least Z$35 million every month, but an average middle class citizen earns Z$15 million.

Political and economic analysts say many urban Zimbabweans have so far survived the country's long-running economic crisis through wheeling and dealing and through subsidies from relatives abroad who send money for groceries.

"I think only God knows how it will all end"

Shamiso Mapanga,
a shopper in Harare 

A recent study by economists at Harare's University of Zimbabwe says 90% of urban families are spending most of their income on food and accommodation in the face of the galloping inflation rate.

Aid agencies have also helped ease the crisis in rural Zimbabwe. But many people have simply left the country.

Regional officials estimate up to two million Zimbabweans have sought economic refuge in neighbouring South Africa in the face of the crisis, which Mugabe's critics say has forced a quarter of the country's 12 million people abroad.

Mugabe's government has branded inflation and corruption as arch-enemies in its war to revive an economy which has shrunk by an estimated 40% in the past seven years.

Dicing with death

The crisis has left Zimbabwe battling chronic shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency, a crumbling infrastructure and poor medical services.

The World Health Organisation said in a report on Friday that life in Zimbabwe is shorter than anywhere else in the world, with neither men nor women expected to live to 40 because of the affects of Aids and poverty.

Women have an average life expectancy of 34 years. On average, men do not live past 37, WHO said.

The opposition, along many other critics, blames the deepening economic crisis on Mugabe's policies and expects the public to explode in an angry revolt soon.

Mugabe, 82, and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has used tough security laws to clamp down on protests.

Last week, Mugabe warned opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that he would be "dicing with death" if he tries to drive him out of power through mass demonstrations.