This weekend Zimbabwe's president turns 85 and he looks forward to lavish celebrations next week while the children are left to starve and more than half the population is being fed by international aid.

President Robert Mugabe, the former liberation hero and Africa's oldest leader, is now shunned by many for leading Zimbabwe to absolute ruin during his 29 years in power, while he and his family have led lives of comparative luxury.

This disparity has been highlighted by Mugabe's plans to celebrate his birthday with a lavish feast on February 28 in the farming town of Chinhoyi in his home province of Mashonaland West.

The youth league of the veteran leader's Zanu-PF party held a fund raiser earlier this month and scraped together $110 000, but still way off its planned budget of $250,000.

Mugabe when first elected, he was seen as a hero of and he was credited with improving health and education for the black majority but now he is looked upon with anger as he has presided over his country's deterioration and most recently the crumbling sanitation system has fuelled a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 3,500 people.

As Mugabe throws parties in Zimbabwe for his 85th birthday, one in 10 children in his country are destined to die before their fifth birthday, said Sarah Jacobs, a spokeswoman for Save the Children, one of the foreign NGOs that has been working to save lives amid the wreckage of Zimbabwe's crumbling health system, the Independent reported. Most of their mothers won't even live to half the President's age, she added.

According to a University of Zimbabwe analyst, Edred Masunungure, He has metamorphosed from what he was in the 1980s to what he is now, the AFP reported.

Mugabe's house is in the plush Borrowdale suburb of Harare, home to the country's rich and famous. His youngest son attends a top primary school.

His second wife Grace, dubbed the first shopper instead of first lady and Mugabe's junior by some 40 years, has made headlines for displaying a penchant for retail therapy on overseas trips.

Grace Mugabe was more recently in the news for allegedly assaulting a photographer during a trip to Hong Kong, where Britain's Sunday Times reported that the couple had bought a $5.8m property.