Why is Zambia so poor? If there were a simple answer, there wouldn’t be a need for African Vision of Hope and the generous donors that keep the doors of our 5 schools open.
Zambia is not a failed country, it is simply extremely poor. Almost ¾ of the population lives on less than $1 a day, 40% don’t have access to clean drinking water, almost 90% of rural women cannot read, and over 14% have HIV. Having a better understanding of Zambia’s condition may help you understand the situations African Vision of Hope students live through every day. So, how did things get this way?
- Mining: Zambia is rich in copper which attracts people from all around the world who are itching to get their hands on it. Most of the buildings in Zambian towns, even the hospitals and schools, were built by the mining company. The problem with this is that when the mining profits fall, so does the maintenance of the hospitals, schools, and other services the mining company provides. This is also a problem because so many people rely on the mines for employment. In the mines, people work without contracts, and you find out your salary when you are paid (if you are paid, that is). People go months without getting paid, and if you complain, you are fired. Also, countries like China bring in their own mining equipment, materials, and workers to the mines which means that those jobs are no longer being held by Zambians.
- The culture: When Zambian parents are either laid off or jobless, they send their kids into the village to sell things in the streets so their family can eat. This keeps children out of school. Most girls are married by 15, selling their bodies in order to make a living, and eventually both she and her husband die of AIDS, leaving their children orphans. In rural areas, women do most of the farming and labor work, but men are the ones who go to the market and sell the produce. They pocket the money and, before they get home, they have spent most of it on beer. This leaves little money for their children’s schooling, medicine, or even next season’s seeds for their fields. Men are the decision-makers in Zambian households. When the man of the house dies, the women have trouble finding jobs to feed their family, most times resorting to selling themselves, which gives them AIDS and leaves their children orphans. These children become street kids, never receiving an education, getting married young, and keeping the cycle of poverty spinning. Ninety percent of Zambia’s population is “informally employed,” meaning there are only a few job options for most people: farming a small plot of land, selling consumer products a few at a time, or doing “piece work” or “odd jobs.”
- The poverty: Hundreds of thousands of Zambians do not have access to a regular food supply. Because of high food prices coupled with extreme poverty, families spend over 60% of their income on basic food needs. There are more than 1.5 million orphans in Zambia because of the AIDS epidemic, and because of poor healthcare, the life expectancy is only 37 years old. That is the fourth lowest in the world. Poverty has adverse effects on child development, and 40% of Zambia’s children have stunted growth. These children are Zambia’s future, and they are starting out their lives at a disadvantage.
It is incredibly difficult for a poor country to become “un-poor.” We can only fix one problem at a time, and at African Vision of Hope we believe education is at the center of Zambia’s success. When you educate children, you show them they are capable of success and breaking their cycle of poverty. African Vision of Hope schools give children meals, a uniform, medical care, leadership skills, spiritual mentoring, and most of all, hope.
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