Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe says that the humanitarian situation in his country is critical. Each week an estimated 3,500 Zimbabweans die from a unique convergence of malnutrition, poverty and AIDS. The figure suggests that far from the media spotlight, more people die in Zimbabwe each week than in Darfur . The World Health Organisation figures released earlier this year place life expectancy in Zimbabwe at 34 for women and 37 for men. This is the lowest in the world. In comparison, life expectancy in Iraq for men is 51 and for women it is 61. Archbishop Ncube says that although Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV infection rates on earth, with over 24% of the population infected, these life expectancy figures cannot just be blamed on AIDS. Zimbabwe's neighbouring countries have the same incidence of Aids but their life expectancy figures are better (some substantially better). For example, life expectancy in South Africa is 47 for men and 49 for women. Archbishop Ncube said, "Zimbabwe is not a nation at war. It used to be able to feed itself and its neighbours. Zimbabwe used to have one of the highest life expectancy rates in Africa, up with South Africa. "Now hunger, illness and desperation stalk our land. Cemeteries are filling up throughout the country. But no blood is being spilt. People are just fading away, dying quietly and being buried quietly with no fanfare - and so there is little international media attention. "These deaths are largely preventable yet without significant intervention, the situation threatens to develop into a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions. The UN has recently warned that 6.1 million Zimbabweans now face starvation." He says Zimbabwe has never been in such a dire socio-economic or political position as that of the present. Inflation is 2,000%, over 10 times more than the next highest rate of Burma, where inflation stands at 70%. The economy has shrunk by over 40% in the last six years. Between 1991 and 2003, urban poverty trebled in Zimbabwe. Out of an adult population of around 5 million, an estimated 3 million - 70% of all people of employable age - have led into the Diaspora, notably to South Africa. Archbishop Ncube is visiting London for meetings at the Foreign Office and the Houses of Parliament. He hopes to raise awareness of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Zimbabwe. CAFOD works with the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe providing humanitarian assistance to over 37,000 families.
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