The issues

Updated november 14th, 2012

Zimbabwe > The current situation

Once hailed as a symbol of regional stability and development, Zimbabwe is now in the midst of a humanitarian emergency rooted in political and economic crises. Years of attacks on basic human rights have precipitated an economic freefall that has plunged the country into extreme instability. Hyperinflation has rendered the Zimbabwean dollar nearly worthless, countrywide unemployment has been estimated at 85 percent, and an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans have already fled the country. Over 7 million Zimbabweans--two-thirds of the remaining population--currently face severe food shortages and are dependent on international aid for survival.

Zimbabwe's healthcare system has likewise broken down, leaving the majority of a country in which 15 percent of the population lives with HIV/AIDS, without basic medical services. An ongoing cholera outbreak is the most recent illustration of the dangers of this collapse. As of Feb. 20, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the epidemic had led to at least 80,000 cases of the disease, with a death total of 3,759-the lack of medical care for Zimbabweans, combined with limited humanitarian aid into the country, has been widely acknowledged to have increased the epidemic's severity. Furthermore, as Zimbabweans continue to stream into neighboring countries, most notably South Africa, cholera now threatens the entire region.

In 2008, forces within the Zimbabwean government employed corruption and violence to subvert the democratic process and maintain a grip on power. In elections held in March of that year, the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won parliamentary control, and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, defeated incumbent ZANU-PF leader Robert Mugabe in a disputed presidential election. In September of 2008, Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing agreement aimed at giving Tsvangirai and the MDC a place in government. Implementation of the agreement was delayed for months due to disagreements over cabinet positions and departmental controls.

In February of 2009, Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister, while Mugabe remained president. As this newly formed government works to stabilize itself, the humanitarian situation within Zimbabwe worsens. Regional and international bodies continue to attempt to determine how best to address Zimbabwe's crises.


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