According to the 2012 National Census, 48 percent of Zimbabwe’s population of 13.2 comprises children the age of 18. These adolescents are entering adulthood under conditions of limited livelihood opportunities and pervasive poverty, especially in rural areas, where 80 per cent of children in poor households reside.
Zimbabwe continues to experience fragile economic conditions. Strong economic growth between 2009 and 2012 – averaging 10 per cent – subsequently decelerated, with contractions experienced across all productive sectors exacerbated by erratic weather conditions that impacted negatively on agricultural production and economic livelihoods. Major mining exports continue to be vulnerable to global commodity price fluctuations, further undermining export receipts.
Zimbabwe is ranked 156th of 187 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI). Low levels of per capita income and unequal distribution mean that Zimbabwe continues to be afflicted by high levels of poverty and inequality. An estimated 78 per cent of children live in households with consumption poverty, of whom 26 per cent are in extreme poverty. Children in rural households are four times more likely than urban children to be in extreme poverty.
Gender inequalities persist, with female-headed households experiencing higher poverty levels. Children in these households have lower outcomes in health and education and in the long term are vulnerable to violence and early marriage.
Recurrent humanitarian risks include droughts and floods, which result in food insecurity, malnutrition, and disease outbreaks. The effects of climate change and the adverse socio-economic environment exacerbate continued fragility and reduce resilience to the effects of the natural and human induced shocks.
Since 2009, Zimbabwe has begun to reverse some of the negative trends seen in the last decades in maternal and child health. Both the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey and the 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey have shown improvements in child and maternal mortality. Similar improvements have been recorded in primary school net attendance, pass, and completion rates, access to safe water and sanitation, and access to child protection services.