- Just five years ago, babies born in
Zimbabwe had a life expectancy of 61 years. Many could expect to live to
see their great grandchildren born. Today, thanks to AIDS, their life expectancy
is 39 years. They will be lucky to become grandparents in their lifetime.
- These devastating figures have emerged
from a new study to be published next month by the US Census Bureau, which
has for the first time calculated the impact of the disease on life expectancy
across Africa. The study reveals a demographic holocaust in which population
growth in most countries is being slashed. It marks a return to the conditions
of the last century, when high birth rates were neutralised by equally
high death rates.
- Zimbabwe is the worst case, with a quarter
of adults infected with HIV. Death rates are "three times higher than
they would have been without AIDS", says the report. Most of the dead
are young adults and infants infected by their mothers. The country's
annual population growth rate has fallen from around 3 per cent in 1992
to 1·1 per cent today. By 2010, newborn Zimbabweans will have a
life expectancy of just 31 years. "We are living through a nightmare,"
says Joseph Malawa, director of Population Services Zimbabwe in Harare.
"I don't think you'll find one family that has not lost a relative
- Other countries are not far behind. The
report, Focus on HIV/AIDS in the Developing World by Peter Way and his
colleagues at the Census Bureau, reveals that in Kenya, life expectancy
has been slashed by 18 years to 48 years, and in Botswana by 22 years to
40. One of the few rays of hope is Uganda, where prevention programmes
are starting to reduce infection rates.
- In September, the UN Development Programme
warned that anybody who thinks this brake on population growth might promote
African economic development is seriously mistaken. "HIV/AIDS is having
a significant impact on economies, creating shortages of skilled labour,"
the agency noted.