Poverty in Zambia: The Forgotten Crisis

Status: 01/13/2022 10:47 a.m.

Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world – but hardly anyone is aware of the need, criticizes the aid organization CARE. The country is stabilizing politically, but poverty and hunger shape everyday life.

By Jana Genth, ARD-Studio Johannesburg

Dusty, sandy slopes lead through the Chongwe region. This administrative district belongs to the province of Lusaka – there are only a few good roads here. Villagers are often condemned to spend hours walking across fields and lawns when going to school or work. But there are not enough jobs in rural areas. Zambia is extremely poor – more than 60 percent of the people, estimate aid organizations, live below the poverty line. Many live in simple, brick houses or in rondavels with a roof made of dry grass.

The new President Hakainde Hichilema has been in office since the end of August 2021. In his inaugural address at Heroes Stadium in Lusaka he had promised: “We will grow our economy so that we can lift more people out of poverty than ever before. We will promote unity and diversity and respect for fundamental human rights, freedoms and rights actually ensure freedom for all of our people. “

In the months leading up to the election, there had been many reports of abuse of power by former President Edgar Lungu. The human rights organization Amnesty International criticized that opposition leaders, journalists, media houses and activists had been targeted.

A typical round building in the Chongwe region – the people in the region have to cope with many hardships.

Image: Jana Genth / ARD-Studio Johannesburg

Slow improvement

Allegations of this kind have fallen silent since Hichilema took office. The new government has started to deal with corruption cases. Before the election, the high prices for food, gasoline and electricity were what burned people’s nails. Meanwhile, inflation has slowed. According to the Trading Economics barometer, it fell from almost 25 percent last August to a good 16 percent. It’s gotten better – but it’s not good yet.

In the wake of the Covid pandemic, Zambia would have declared its insolvency at the end of 2020. One reason for this was the global fall in copper prices; after all, Zambia is one of the world’s largest producers of this metal. Droughts had caused agricultural yields to decline in previous years. The World Bank is currently seeing the signs of gradual recovery and is forecasting Zambia growth of 1.8 percent of gross domestic product this year.

Serious deficiencies in the infrastructure

But basic infrastructures still need to be improved. The water quality is criticized in some areas. Mufulira, for example, is the fourth largest city in the country. It is located in the so-called Copperbelt, the copper mining area in the center of Zambia. Joe Kalusa, State Secretary in the Ministry of Water Development and Sanitation, was there last week because there have been many gastrointestinal diseases for some time.

Kalusa spoke of a problem. “We have received reports of inadequate water supplies in Mufulira. I know we have many shallow wells and some rivers with dirty water. People are in desperate need of clean drinking water. They have no choice and water is scarce. We have to deal with it strive to improve the deteriorating water supply and sanitary facilities. “

The water supply is one of the many problems in Zambia – in many places the water quality is inadequate.

Image: Jana Genth / ARD-Studio Johannesburg

An entire region is affected

In the Chongwe region, women walk with buckets to fetch water. Most of the people there only have one meal a day. It is not much different in the neighboring countries. Malawi joins in the north-east, and Zimbabwe, bordering to the south, also experiences similar difficulties.

Hunger, child malnutrition and poverty are part of everyday life for many people in these three countries. In addition, the risk of extreme weather has also increased. It was not until, for example, that the Zambian weather service issued a warning that there was a risk of flash floods in some parts of the country.

Ranking of forgotten humanitarian crises

The aid organization CARE publishes an annual report on ten humanitarian crises that take place under the public’s radar. More than 1.8 million online articles in five languages ​​were evaluated for the “Suffering in Silence” analysis. It was investigated which humanitarian crises with more than one million victims were mentioned the least in the media. This year these crises are on the list:

1. Zambia: In the African country, 60 percent of the people live below the poverty line. 1.2 million people are starving.

2. Ukraine: The armed conflict in the east of the country means that 3.4 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.

3. Malawi: In the Southeast African country, extreme weather conditions lead to hunger, displacement and poverty. More than one in three toddlers is underdeveloped due to malnutrition.

4. Central African Republic: Almost half of the population does not have enough food due to a civil war that flares up again and again.

5. Guatemala: 40 percent of the inhabitants of the Central American country live in extreme poverty, among other things due to drought and natural disasters as a result of the climate crisis.

6. Colombia: 6.7 million people are dependent on humanitarian aid. Children and members of ethnic minorities are particularly affected.

7. Burundi: Armed conflicts, drought and extreme weather lead to hunger and displacement in the small East African country. 2.3 million people need humanitarian aid.

8. Niger: In the West African country, the climate crisis is threatening the livelihood of many people. Almost half of the children up to the age of five are chronically undernourished.

9. Zimbabwe: The South African country suffers from water and food shortages. More than a third of the population is starving.

10. Honduras: Almost a third of the people in the Central American country need humanitarian aid because of corruption, violence and food shortages.

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