Zimbabwe: Relief and Development for Children

Where We Work - Zimbabwe

Humanitarian Relief and Development for Children

Save the Children has supported programs in Zimbabwe since 1984. We serve children and families through humanitarian relief and long-term development. Initially one of the most successful democracies in Africa, in 2000 began a Zimbabwe rapid decline toward economic and social meltdown. Children have suffered as a result, particularly, orphans, the poor and those affected and infected by HIV and AIDS.

The situation for children in Zimbabwe — nearly one out of three are malnourished — is getting even worse. Acute child malnutrition in parts of the country has increased in recent years. In addition, many Zimbabwean children lack access to basic education, health care and daily essentials for survival.

Challenges for Children

Zimbabwe has suffered massive food shortages since 2002, due to the country’s ongoing economic crisis. Small farms failed and the commercial farming industry collapsed. Families in Zimbabwe rely on rations of food aid to survive. Nearly half the population — about 5 million people — is in need of food aid.

The spread of disease continue to threaten the lives and well-being of children and their families in Zimbabwe. Basic sanitation services and the health care system have collapsed. A growing number of children and families have had to face infectious diseases such as HIV and AIDS, cholera, measles, malaria and typhoid in recent years.

Education and Child Development

More than 3.2 million children are enrolled in primary and secondary schools in Zimbabwe — yet there are only about 102,000 teachers. School enrollment is highest in first grade, but first graders also have the high drop out rates. In 2009, three percent of children in first grade left school. This highlights a need for early learning opportunities to prepare children to succeed in school.

Nationwide in 2009, less than half of students passed their seventh grade exams — a series of tests which serve as a major educational milestone in Zimbabwe. On average, three Zimbabwean school children share a math textbook, and four children share a seat and desk area.

In response to these and other challenges, more than half a million orphans and vulnerable children are being helped in getting access to a quality education through programs supported by Save the Children.

Emergency Relief and Recovery

Zimbabwe experienced the worst cholera crisis in Africa for 15 years in 2008-2009. Nearly 5,000 people were killed by the deadly disease, many of them vulnerable children. Another 1,500 people died from cholera-related infection in 2010.

In response, Save the Children has reached over 23,000 people, including nearly 12,000 children, with treatment and health education. Hygiene, education food was delivered to cholera-affected areas including water treatment tablets, soap, water containers, educational posters and flyers, cooking oil, food and other supplies. Efforts were coordinated with other non-government organizations and technical assistance was provided to the Ministry of Health.

Results and Impact in Zimbabwe

Last year, more than 450,000 people benefited from our work in Zimbabwe providing food, health care and child protection services. While progress has been made, life for millions of the poorest children and women in Zimbabwe is still full of hardships.

A total of 57 projects were implemented, many in partnership with local organizations to increase efficiency and engagement in Zimbabwean villages and communities. Save the Children’s relief workers and development programs reached a total of 452,378 people directly, and 385,263 of them were children. In addition, the program indirectly reached 831,901 people, of which 451,716 were children.

"Even if we are not literate ourselves, we can help our children so that they can read and study well. It is important that our children know how to read so that they would have a better life than us."
– Mother of a Literacy Boost Student

Zimbabwe Facts and Statistics

  • Population: 13,182,908
  • Infant Death Rate: 27 deaths/1,000 deaths
  • Life Expectancy: 53 years
  • Underweight Children: 10.1%
  • Maternal Death Risk: 570 deaths/100,000 live births
  • Girls' Education: 9 years
  • Clean Water Access: 80%


Unless otherwise noted, facts and statistics have been sourced from Save the Children’s 2012 State of the World’s Mothers report. You can access detailed data here.

Other sources as follows: Infant Mortality Rate: CIA World Factbook 2012; Life Expectancy at Birth: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; National Poverty Rate: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; Population: CIA World Factbook 2012; Human Development Index Rank: United Nations Development Program

Last Updated June 2014