Zambia Poverty

The Zambia (named after the Zambezi river that flows through the country) was one of Africa's richest countries up until its independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 not least because of its rich copper mining and export heritage. Despite this wealth, Zambia's educational provision was probably one of the least developed of all the UK's former colonies with just 0.5% of its population have completed primary school.

Following independence President Kenneth David Kaunda introduced a range of socialist policies which took Zambia from being one of Africa's richest countries to one of its poorest. Together with an oversized public sector (even in 2009 44.3% of the working population was involved in the service sector), gross inefficiencies and widespread corruption, the country amassed a mountain of debt that exceeded $60,000,000 by the year 2000.

Servicing this debt was prohibitively expensive and income was further decimated by a world-wide decline in copper prices. Kuanda's legacy was an impoverished nation with a poor infrastructure including sub-standard health and educational provision. Some idea of the poverty situation in Zambia can be illustrated by comparing some statistics with nearby South Africa:

  Zambia South Africa
Population 13.3 million 50.5 million
GDP per Capita $1497 $10,140
Household consumption per capita $641 $5145
Population in poverty 63.7% 3.1%
Under nourishment 45% < 5%

Although the Zambian economy has grown impressively over the past decade, currently standing at 7% per annum compared with South Africa's 3.8%, formal employment remains critically low at just 10%. Little of the wealth created has cascaded down into poorer areas and with so few working taxation revenue is simply not there to service the country's in need infrastructure.

Yet, even where the infrastructure had been updated, they are poorly serviced and supplied. One civil rights activist noted: "They have built all these new hospitals but not given thoughts to training staff, so we have hospitals with no nurses. Medical consultations are supposed to be free in rural areas, but none of the clinics have medicine in stock. So you have to buy your own and then how is that free? Where I live, women who go into hospital to give birth are told to take their own bucket of hot water and their own disinfectant -- that's how poorly equipped these new hospitals are."

Today the majority of children in Zambia live on less than 60p a day. Around half of them under the age of 5yrs are malnourished and vitamin deficiency and anaemia are widespread. The health care system is under developed especially in rural areas and this is compounded by the rural population having limited access to improved drinking water at just 36%. However there are wide variations in the level of poverty across the provinces of Zambia as this table shows:

Incidence of poverty by province, 1991 - 2006

Incidence of poverty
Incidence of poverty
Incidence of poverty
Incidence of poverty
Incidence of poverty
incidence of poverty
Central 70 81 74 77 76 72
Copperbelt 61 49 56 65 56 42
Eastern 85 91 82 79 70 79
Luapula 84 88 78 82 79 73
Lusaka 31 39 38 53 48 29
Northern 84 86 84 81 74 78
North Western 75 88 80 77 76 72
Southern 79 87 76 75 69 73
Western 84 91 84 89 83 84

This video show some pictures and images of poverty in Zambia today, a country ravaged by AIDS that has taken out a generation of teachers, doctors, nurses and other skilled professionals that will inevitably impact on the future development of a country where one in five children has lost one or both parents to the disease driving tens of thousands of them onto the streets.


Zambia Poverty

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Zambia Poverty

Zambia Poverty

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