|April 10, 2006
Adult population to die before age 40, says UN report
Zimbabwean women have the shortest lifespan in the world, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Neither men nor women in one of the world's fastest shrinking economies are expected to reach the age of 40, according to the 'World Health Report 2006', based on the statistics for 2004. Since the 2005 report, based on the figures for 2003, life expectancy for both sexes has plunged by two years: Zimbabwe's women now have an average lifespan of 34 years, the lowest in the world; that of men is 37 years. The government in return has denied international media reports, Minister of Health and Child Welfare, David Parirenyatwa, said, the reports were false.
Among the 192 countries included in the WHO indicators, Swaziland recorded the lowest life expectancy for men - 36 years - with 39 years for women. The reports further said Zimbabwe and Swaziland were among the countries worst affected by the HIV pandemic on the continent. The average life expectancy was reportedly less than half of the 82-year life span in Japan, which was placed at the top of the table together with San Marino and Monaco.
The report also sought to relate HIV prevalence to mortality in Zimbabwe, but did not mention economic hardships as directly related to mortality rates in the country. "Overall, HIV positive men and women had mortality rates 8.6 and 10.2 times higher respectively than those who were HIV negative. Sixty-one percent of mortality in males and 70 percent adult females can be attributed to HIV. "However, the current results do suggest that reduction in HIV-associated mortality achieved through the use of antiretroviral therapy for example could have a major impact on general mortality patterns," read part of the research findings. Zimbabwe’s HIV infection rate has actually fallen in recent years to around a fifth of the population, apparently due to increased condom use and sexual abstinence. But the population of some 12.5 million still has one of the world’s higher HIV prevalence rates, and more than half the infections and deaths strike women.
(WHO / The Herald, Harare)
Zimbabwe life expectancy at birth in comparison with other countries (WHO)