Since gaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has faced some serious challenges. HIV is a huge and persistent problem, particularly among the working age population, which affects productivity and livelihoods. HIV has left the nation with 1.6 million orphans – the highest rate anywhere in the world.
Years of erratic rainfall have lead to both droughts and flooding, hampering food production and damaging homes and property. Meanwhile, major economic problems, including hyper-inflation and, more recently, deflation, have discouraged investment in the country. Industry in Zimbabwe has crumbled – making the problem of poverty even worse.
Women and girls in Zimbabwe continue to be a vulnerable group, primarily due to a strongly patriarchal society where harmful cultural and religious practices are rampant. Nearly a third of females are married before they turn 18, although this has been recently outlawed. Domestic violence is rife, especially among poor and rural communities. 40 per cent of Zimbabwean men think it is acceptable to beat their wives. Nearly two thirds of women have also reported that they have experienced sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.
Other particularly vulnerable groups include the disabled, transgender people, people expressing lesbian, gay or bisexual sexuality, and ethnic minorities.