LUSAKA — Zambia is a landlocked country in the Sub-Saharan Africa with 14 million people living on less than $1 a day. The country won its independence in 1964 and had the strongest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.
However, today, 64 percent of the population is suffering from poverty. Although Zambia has the world’s ninth richest copper deposits, three out of four people are living in poverty. Forty percent of the GDP of Zambia is based on copper deposits while 95 percent is based on exports.
1. Poverty in Zambia is the result of decades of economic decline and neglected infrastructure.
The northwestern province of Zambia hosts the poorest people and is the least developed in the country. Distribution of wealth is unequal with few rich and middle-income people, and the maximum proportion of the people in Zambia is poor.
Poverty in Zambia has drastically affected the health of Zambians, especially children. One in five children is an orphan. Growth stunting in children is 40 percent. Fifty-three percent of the children under the age of five suffer from anemia and 50 percent of the children are underweight. Food insecurity is prevalent and affects 350,000 people. Forty percent of the population lacks access to clean drinking water.
2. Poverty in Zambia is rooted in historical, geographical and social factors.
Geographically, Zambia is isolated, which denies it access to services and markets. Technical knowledge is limited and the country is suffering from a transition from state led to the market economy.
Agriculture has been neglected by the government. With the liberalization of the economy in 1990, agriculture has stopped receiving assistance from the government.
Trade has declined and droughts have impacted agriculture which has worsened the conditions for farmers.
The attitude of people is a major contributor to poverty in Zambia. Most people believe that they would be unable to carry out development programs and afford high standards of living.
The UNIP government of Zambia based its policies on empowering the people with a high focus on the copper industry. However, the collapse of the copper industry in the 1970s made this non-sustainable. Presently, the government is working on macroeconomic stability and growth, yet no meaningful growth has been witnessed and the income inequality is still in place.
3. Another major cause of poverty in Zambia is the government corruption and lack of monitoring of the public resources.
The government budget has not prioritized poverty, which was shown in the national budget by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.
Poverty in Zambia has been exacerbated by the external debt. The country is paying over $150 million per year to clear the external debt due to which the education and health services are not receiving enough financing.
Zambia is experiencing brain drain syndrome. Highly skilled personnel like teachers, scientists, administrators, doctors and nurses are migrating to different parts of the world.
4. Diseases have taken a toll as well and are worsening the poverty level.
Zambia suffers from an HIV/AIDS pandemic. This has caused major undercuts on the development initiatives and contributed to the poverty in Zambia.
5. Illiteracy is widespread and is a huge hindrance for economic growth.
Education has not been made a priority by the government and majority of the Zambians cannot read and write. Literacy is needed to create confidence in the people, which can then incorporate a drive to overcome poverty.
Although Zambia has poverty reduction programs and there are donors who are helping, the country needs to take practical steps to protect the people from the crisis. The government needs to make poverty reduction a top priority. Proper implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies is needed. The growth of the economy that benefits the poor as well must be tailored to eradicate poverty in Zambia.
– Aishwarya Bansal