Burden of disease and death
Overall, life expectancy at birth in Zambia has fallen to 37.5 years, the fourth lowest in the world. Currently 14.3 per cent of the Zambian population or 845,000 people between the ages of 15 and 49 are living with HIV and AIDS.
Amongst urban young women in particular, infection rates reach 22 per cent by age 20 to 24. An estimated 40,000 babies are infected annually, the majority dying before the age of five. The burden of disease is particularly evident in children under age 5 and mothers.
It is expected that 60 per cent of babies born will not survive to the age of 40. Maternal mortality at 729 per 100,000 live births is amongst the highest in the world. For many mothers, pregnancy and birth remain a serious threat. Malaria is responsible for one third of under five deaths, with many others caused by respiratory infections, diarrhoea and neo-natal conditions.
Although not usually cited as the cause of death, it is estimated that malnutrition is an underlying factor in 54 per cent of child deaths. Largely as a result of HIV and AIDS, the number of orphans in Zambia has increased dramatically in recent years with currently 1.1 million children estimated to have lost one or both parents.
The proportion of orphans who have lost both their parents is rising, and is recently estimated as over 19 per cent. As a child grows, the chances of having lost one or both parents increases. Amongst 14-year-olds, 31 per cent of urban children and 27 per cent of rural children have lost one or both of their parents.