General information on Zimbabwe

Over 1.6 million children have lost the care of their parents in Zimbabwe. HIV/AIDS has had a devastating effect on families and the communities they live in. Some steps have been made to protect the most vulnerable children, but much more remains to be done.
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School children posing with their work - photo: SOS Archives
A young girl growing up in an SOS family (photo: S. Kitshoff)
Around 14.5 million people live in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean economy is fragile and the effect on the labour market is dramatic as the majority of Zimbabweans remain underemployed or unemployed. Unemployment is particularly high in rural areas, and many people (especially men) move to urban areas in search of work. Unfortunately, they do not always find a stable job there either.

According to the World Bank, about 72 per cent of people live in poverty. Poverty is higher in rural areas than in urban areas. The poverty rates are highest in the south eastern regions of the country, where many people live off farming, but the land is not very productive and the area suffers frequent droughts.

An estimated 1.6 million children live in extreme poverty. These children do not have access to the most basic resources such as food, decent housing, safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.

HIV/AIDS remains a major public health problem

Poverty and the lack of employment often result in malnutrition. Around 28 percent of children under the age of five are stunted and 56 per cent of all children under 5 suffer from anaemia. In 2016, Zimbabwe faced one of the worst food crises of recent times. The number of households who did not have enough food nearly doubled and almost 33,000 children were in urgent need of treatment against malnutrition. In the south-western provinces of the country, over half of the population were struggling to avoid going hungry. 

HI/AIDS is one of the country’s most pressing health issues. 14 per cent of Zimbabweans live a life with HIV/AIDS, one of the highest rates in the world. Out of over one million people infected, 180,000 are children. Children whose parents are HIV-positive are especially vulnerable. They risk becoming infected themselves, losing parental care, or may face social discrimination.

Access to health care is also problematic as it is often neither accessible nor affordable. This is especially true in rural areas where visiting the nearest clinic can involve long walks. When people get there, there is no guarantee that the centre will have the necessary equipment or medicines to treat their ailments.

Children are in need of protection and support

Boy smiling into the camera - photo: SOS Archives
Twins feeling safe and having fun with their SOS mother (photo: S. Kitshoff)

SOS Children's Villages in Zimbabwe