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Thirty years of Zimbabwe in graphs

19 April 10 08:09 GMT

Zimbabwe is marking 30 years of independence and black majority rule. The BBC presents a series of graphs showing how life has changed since 18 April 1980.

Prime Minister Robert Mugabe took over a country which had been devastated by the long war his guerrillas had fought against the forces of the white minority government of Rhodesia, as well as international sanctions.

At first, there was a real feeling of optimism - that Mr Mugabe would build on the strong economic foundations he had inherited and that Africa's newest country would blaze a trail for the rest of the continent.

But in recent years, Zimbabwe has been the world's fastest shrinking economy.

Shortly after taking office, Mr Mugabe's government expanded health and education to the black population, many of whom had been deprived of such services during white minority rule.

Zimbabwe had the highest literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa.

But by the turn of the decade, the economy was stagnating and in 1991-2, Zimbabwe was hit by a devastating drought.

The money to provide the state services started to run out - especially after donors such as the IMF cut support for the government, criticising its economic policies.

And the HIV/Aids pandemic started to ravage the population.

After the turn of the century, the rate of HIV prevalence started to fall sharply, although hundreds continued to die each day.

Optimists said that young Zimbabweans had started to change their behaviour and have fewer partners. Pessimists said the rates were falling because so many of those infected with HIV were now dying.

The start of the 21st Century saw Mr Mugabe speed up his flagship policy of redistributing land from white farmers to black families.

However, this devastated the agriculture-based economy and led to donors completely cutting aid to Zimbabwe.

Foreign currency became scarce and the government introduced an official exchange rate, which may account for the high agricultural export figure in US dollars terms for 2006.

By the end of the decade, the economy was in ruins, along with the vaunted health and education sectors.

Doctors and teachers were not being paid, so they did not turn up to work. Schools had no text books and hospitals had no medicines. There was not even the money to treat raw sewage and there was a massive cholera outbreak.

Zimbabwe's life expectancy is now among the lowest in the world.

The economic collapse left Mr Mugabe with little choice but to share power with the opposition and the economy started to stabilise but on its 30th birthday, the country's future remains uncertain.

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