In Britain, it’s 80. In Zimbabwe, it’s 49. Life expectancy in this part of southern Africa is among the lowest anywhere in the world – a shocking fact for a country that was once thought of as the breadbasket of Africa.

HIV and AIDS, disease and hunger, malnutrition and weakness, death in childbirth and from preventable causes – all these take their toll on Zimbabweans’ lifespan. But the cause can be boiled down to a very simple fact: a level of poverty so profound that people are living on a knife-edge.

Key facts

  • An estimated 1.7 million people countrywide are facing acute hunger in Zimbabwe – a country which once fed its people and exported food to the world. 
  • Every day, 400 people die of AIDS-related diseases. Zimbabwe has more orphans as a percentage of the population than any other country in the world, largely because of HIV. 
  • The most vulnerable people in Zimbabwe are its children. We offer them protection and healthcare, and help their families make a living.
  • In 2010 we helped 453,000 people directly, 385,000 of them children.

The challenges

Over the past ten years, Zimbabwe has experienced a sharp and striking decline on all crucial counts: education, the economy, employment, health and life expectancy. It’s not that the figures are so profoundly bad; it’s that they have declined so far, so fast.

Zimbabwe was once one of the wealthiest countries in Africa. But today its people face constant need. The six months of the ‘lean and hungry season’, from October to March, is a time when people sell everything – their goats, their livestock, their seeds – to stay alive.

Many children don’t go to school because their parents can’t afford the fees. Those that do often fall asleep because they’re weakened by malnutrition.

To survive, many families and many children – often unaccompanied, and some as young as eight – take the dangerous road to South Africa and Botswana to search for work. This puts children at very high risk of abuse and exploitation, especially young girls.

Our achievements

  • We screened or treated nearly 20,000 children for malnutrition in 2010, and helped more than 12,000 families earn a better living in Binga, Kariba, Makonde and Zvimba districts.
  •  In 2010 we provided protection, care, advice and training to more than 130,000 children orphaned by HIV and AIDS.
  • We worked with the government to help it produce its first UN report on the state of child rights in 2010. We’re working with more than 20 civil society organisations to monitor compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • We’ve set up dozens of child-led groups to help children to learn how to protect themselves from abuse and make their schools and neighbourhoods safer.
  • We’re renowned for our role in protection nationwide. In Beitbridge, on the border with South Africa, we provide help to children deported or returning from South Africa, offering counseling, HIV information, and a chance to return to their families.  
  • In 2010 we helped thousands of children in the justice system, including support during trials, so that they are treated as children, not criminals and do not have to confront their abuser directly.

What’s urgent

In 2011 we’ll launch our EVERY ONE campaign for Zimbabwe’s children. We’ll be working with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and children, and reduce the number of preventable newborn deaths across the country.

With the political situation so fluid, we maintain our humanitarian principles and programmes to do our best for ordinary Zimbabweans and their children. 

You can help

Support our EVERY ONE campaign for Zimbabwe’s children. Your generosity will help us ensure that clinics have the supplies and trained personnel they need to serve local communities. It will also help us reduce chronic malnutrition and the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies.

Support our vital work by donating today.