It is perhaps ironic that despite being one of the world's fastest growing economies, Zambia remains one of the world's poorest countries with, according to the latest available data, close to 64% of the population living under $2 a day and the majority of those who earn more barely make ends meet; over 40% of these are considered to live in extreme poverty (under $1.25 a day). Despite these challenges, Zambia is a country with a strong sense of community with those living in rural areas living within extended family clusters of mud huts (below). Family is paramount and dominates life in Zambia with Zambian families having as many children as possible, not just because children are so highly valued but as an 'insurance policy' for the parent's old age, and, of course, extra hands to work on the family farm. The average family in Zambia currently has six children.
Just under half the population of some 17.86 million (2019) live in urban areas, with the remaining 55.37% (2020, according to the World Bank) living in rural areas. Whilst the economic outlook for the population is improving, today life in Zambia is still harsh for the majority. 1.12 million children (40%) of under 5 years suffer from chronic malnutrition (stunting or low height-for-age). Vitamin deficiency and anaemia are also 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 49%. (87% in urban areas.) The spread of AIDS/HIV has also affected life in Zambia with, at one point, one in five children in the country having lost one or both parents to the disease. On the latest available figures, the national HIV prevalence rate is 11.3% among adults aged 15 to 49 as of 2018 and significant numbers of chidlren in Zambia are born HIV-positive each year due to mother-to-child transmission. AIDs has no regard for who it kills and in an already impoverished country it has ravaged thousands of professionals from teachers to engineers affecting the country's ability to develop effectively. Overall life expectancy in Zambia is life expectancy of 63.51 years (2018).
Life in rural Zambia is very traditional. Where there are rivers, men will go fishing in their dug-out canoes, children herd cattle and women pound home grown maize (with their children wrapped in chitenge on their backs) to make Nshima, a traditional Zambian dish usually served with fish or meat and vegetables or sour milk and beans depending on the location. Poorer families will eat the Nshima on its own if they can't afford meat or fish. 'Cottage' industries include making wooden carvings, baskets, stools, mats and metal craft.
Education is considered important, with high rates of literacy, and, unlike so many other countries, there is little gender gap. Unfortunately there is an ongoing issue with a shortage of teachers so many children end their education without a firm grasp of key skills, although the situation has improved following the abolition of tuition fees. Education itself is divided into two parts basic education (years 1 to 9), and upper secondary (years 10 to 12) however a great many children drop out after year 7 as the free tuition then stops. The HDI (Human Development Index) is measured by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the World Bank and is based upon the life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and living standards of a country, and ranks Zambia in 146th place out of 189 countries and territories in 2019. That is above neighbouring Zimbabwe in 150th place, Angola in 148th place and well above its other neighbours Malawi (174th) and Mozambique in 181th out of 189th. The video (below) although now a few years old, still shows the essence of village life in Zambia today.
Life in Zambia: Volunteer in Zambia
Life in Zambia: Children in Zambia
Life in Zambia: Sponsor a Child in Zambia
Life in Zambia: Zambia Country Profile
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