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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 April 2006, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Zimbabweans have 'shortest lives'
Zimbabwean woman with child
Zimbabwean women are more likely than men to be infected by HIV
Life in Zimbabwe is shorter than anywhere else in the world, with the average person not expected to live to 40, a new UN report says.

Zimbabwe's women have an average life expectancy of 34 years and men on average do not live past 37, it said.

The World Health Organisation report said women's life expectancy had fallen by two years in the last 12 months.

Correspondents say poverty, because of the crumbling economy, and deaths from Aids are responsible for the decline.

Zimbabwean women have the lowest life expectancy of women anywhere in the world, according to the report.

Women in the country are also more likely than men to be infected by the HIV virus.

'Economic meltdown'

According to the report, all 10 countries with the world's lowest life expectancy were in Africa.

People in Swaziland and Sierra Leone are also not expected to live to 40, the report said.

Japan was said to have the highest life expectancy in the world, with people there living on average until 82.

According to the BBC's Africa editor, David Bamford, the latest figures are extraordinary for a country like Zimbabwe, which until 20 years ago, had a relatively high standard of living for Africa.

The HIV/Aids epidemic sweeping across southern Africa cannot alone be blamed for this - especially as recent figures show a slight drop in HIV infection rates in Zimbabwe.

Our correspondent says the key reason behind the drop in Zimbabwe's average life expectancy is the fall in the standard of living, triggered by an economic crisis.

Zimbabwe's economy has shrunk by an estimated 40% in the last seven years under President Robert Mugabe.

See how poverty and poor health are affecting Zimbabweans

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