JOHANNESBURG, - HIV/AIDS has been highlighted as the predominant threat to
development in Zimbabwe, according to a UN Development Programme (UNDP) report.
The Zimbabwe Human Development Report 2003, "Redirecting Our Responses to HIV and AIDS", was launched on Thursday in the capital, Harare.
The researchers argue that the "devastating impact of the epidemic, which is at its worst in the Southern Africa sub-region, is benchmarked against a historical context of widespread socioeconomic vulnerability (lack of development) of the population over many decades".
The report postulates that, "in view of the strong linkages between development and vulnerability, the current multisectoral response, which is largely biomedical in content, is necessary but far from being sufficient for combating and reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe in particular, and Southern Africa in general".
This was premised on a number of acknowledgements by individual nations and international organisations, including the African Union and the United Nations.
The UN declaration on HIV and AIDS had said "HIV/AIDS is compounding poverty and is now reversing or impeding development in many countries, and should therefore be addressed in an integrated manner".
Since the first HIV/AIDS case was identified in Zimbabwe in 1985, infection rates had "progressively increased to the adult prevalence [rate] of 33.7 percent in 2002", the report noted.
Key indicators of human development had meanwhile been steadily declining. "Overlaying the HIV and AIDS epidemic on Zimbabwe's development course in the past two decades shows a close relationship between the evolution of the epidemic and deterioration of human development in its broad sense."
Although the economy grew by around three to four percent in the 1980s, the 1990s "generally saw a decline in economic growth and a persistence of the structural problems of poverty and inequality", the UNDP found.
"HIV infection has increased dramatically from the low levels of the late 80s, when development was reasonably strong, to over 30 percent in 2002. This coincidence is clear evidence of development gone wrong. Life expectancy has dropped from 61 years in 1990 to 34 years in 2003. While the children of mothers with no education experienced an under-five mortality rate of 119 per 1,000, those of women with higher than secondary school education experienced a mortality rate as low as 21 per 1,000 - indicating that education remains an important developmental indicator."
The report stressed that "maternal mortality figures were estimated to be 283 deaths per 100,000 live births during 1984-1994, rising sharply to 695 per 100,000 live births during 1995-1999".
All these negative trends were associated closely with HIV/AIDS.
There were also "strong indications of stress in the education sector as a result of HIV and AIDS mortality and morbidity of both staff and pupils, as well as due to brain drain", which was compounded by the ever-increasing number of orphans and vulnerable children.
Combating and reversing the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was "the ultimate war for the survival" of Zimbabwe.
The material contained in this article is from IRIN, a UN humanitarian
information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United
Nations or its agencies.
All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004
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