One in four children in Zimbabwe has lost one or both parents. As many as 85% of these orphans have lost their parents as a result of HIV and AIDS. An additional 6% of children in Zimbabwe are considered "vulnerable," and more than 168,000 children are currently living with HIV. Coupled with endemic poverty due to economic hardships and deteriorating health and social service systems, HIV and AIDS have greatly increased the vulnerability of children in Zimbabwe. UNICEF (2008) estimates that more than 250,000 orphaned children are in need of emergency support and protection. An additional 29% of children under the age of five in Zimbabwe are stunted and show signs of malnutrition, a disease which has become chronic in most parts of the country.

Orphans and other highly vulnerable groups of children face greater health risks due to severe shortages of food, lack of clean drinking water and lack of medical care. As a result, children are frequently succumbing to preventable diseases such as malnutrition. In 2008/2009, death and severe disease from diarrhea affected many children as a result of a cholera outbreak.

A rapid assessment survey carried out by Children First in December 2008 identified three critical groups of children that are in need of attention. They are:

  • HIV-infected children and their families;
  • Survivors of abuse; and
  • Children living on the street.