"Zimbabwe's economic output has decreased dramatically since 1998. Official inflation rose above 200,000,000% in 2008, and although the economy has stabilized, unemployment remains estimated at more than 90%. The adult HIV prevalence rate of 15.3% has contributed to a sharp drop in life expectancy, and a nationwide cholera outbreak from late 2008 through early 2009 resulted in almost 100,000 infections and over 4,000 deaths. The number of Zimbabweans expected to require food aid in 2010 is estimated at 1.9 million. Deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions in recent years have led many to emigrate [sic] to neighboring countries, creating a substantial burden on the region. The country appears to be making a gradual shift from humanitarian crisis toward recovery, but much of the population remains highly vulnerable. Robert Mugabe has enjoyed considerable popularity in Africa as a former liberation leader, but some African leaders have viewed his policies as damaging to the continent and urged democratic reforms. Following controversial elections in 2000 and citing abuses of human rights and the rule of law, the United States and some other former allies of the government became vocal critics. The United States has enforced targeted sanctions against top Zimbabwe officials and associates since 2002. This report provides background on events leading up to and surrounding the country's most recent elections, in March and June 2008."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32723