Not much more than a decade ago, Zimbabwe was known as the bread basket of the region. It produced enough food to feed not only its own people, but those of other countries as well.
A lot can happen in a decade. Today, Zimbabwe is a basket case.
To give you a background and overview for the rest of our Operation Love Zimbabwe posts, here are a few facts. We'll try to keep this short...
Mugabe, of the ZANU-PF party, became prime minister of Zimbabwe following independence from British rule in 1980. In the early 1990s, as neighboring South Africa was approaching its first democratic election and Mozambique was in peace negotiations at the end of its civil war, Zimbabwe began a downward spiral.
In 1997, Mugabe announced a land redistribution program, taking productive farmland and dividing it among landless blacks. Due to protests, the government backed down, but in 2000 government-backed militias began violently occupying white-owned farms.
Allegations of voter intimidation tainted the 2002 election which left Mugabe in power. In 2008, in spite of voter intimidation, Mugabe had only 43.2 percent of the vote. Yet Mugabe is still running the country. (http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761575825_9/Zimbabwe.html)
Zimbabwe is in the middle of social and economic collapse. State sponsored terror and anarchy is rampant. The downward spiral continues to exceed worst expectations. And it seems very little is being done to stop the madness.
Inflation. In December, Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate was reported to be 516 quintillion percent. Think 18 zeros. In most minds, including mine, that's unfathomable - kind of like infinity. Consumer prices are doubling on average every 1.3 days. That means you've got a lot of starving billionaires.
Starvation. Seven million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid, up from 5.1 million last June. But food aid is actually in decline, thanks to the multiplying problems facing aid providers in Zimbabwe. Donations to food programs are down around the globe. And all indications are that next year's harvest will be worst than the last, resulting in even more need.
Health System. Hospitals have been shutting down due to lack medical supplies and personnel. People are dying for illnesses that aren't supposed to be fatal. With a box of latex gloves costing the equivalent of US$500 at times, there is little available to combat the current cholera epidemic, which was killed well over 3,000 people so far. The collapse of the country's water and sanitation systems hasn't helped.
AIDS. Even with the cholera epidemic, AIDS remains the biggest killer. The 2005 UNICEF statistics put the HIV prevalence rate at 20.1%. As one doctor puts it, "people are dying of AIDS before they can starve to death." And the number of AIDS orphans increases.
Education. The start of the 2009 school year has been officially postponed, as there are no teachers willing to work. A teacher's monthly salary in December was US$1, about the cost for bus fare to get him or her to work one day. And so dwindles the hope for Zimbabwe's future.
What's happening in Zimbabwe is known as the passive or smart genocide. There are no gas chambers or piles of dead bodies. It's largely unnoticed by the press. Yet the numbers of dead resulting from the Mugabe government policies easily number twice the amount of Rwanda's genocide.