Zambia has been classified as a lower middle-income country and, terms of basic development it was ranked 164 out of 187 countries in the 2011 UN Human Development Index and has one of the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line in the world.
This country is a land locked haven of peace in Southern Africa, with a population of plus 13 million. In 1991, the countrywent through political transitions from one party rule to multi-party democracy and entailed economicliberalization and structural reforms programs, turning itinto one of the open market economies of sub-Saharan Africa. Zambia is one of the countries that have managed peaceful transition of power from one party to the other.
The political situation since the coming in of the new government of President Michael Sata has been stable. The new government has made the fight against corruption a priority since coming into power in 2011. The fight against corruption has seen high ranking former government officials being sacked and others being charged for corrupt tendencies. However, there are fears that the President is replacing sacked officials with his own cronies. The president has made six cabinet reshuffles since coming into power.
The government and Chinese relations remains sound and as a result big projects have been undertaken by Chinese companies. However, ordinary Zambians have not been happy with conditions of service at most of the Chinese companies. According to the Sixth National Development Plan for Zambia, which was launched last year,economic growth improved averaging 6.1% per annum. Annual inflation was much lower, hovering between one and two digits. 5.4 million people are in employment in the formal sector, with males accounting for 71% compared to only 21% females of the total labour force. Unemployment was at 15.5% of the total labour force – 70% in urban areas and 30% in rural areas.
However, Zambia’s economic growth has not translated into significant poverty reduction, with 80 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. Despite vast potential and stated commitments to diversify, the mining sector continues to dominate the Zambian economy. The boom in copper prices at the international market has not had any corresponding benefits to the ordinary Zambian citizens, and particularly to children, as socio-economic indicators show:
- Half the population of people still living in extreme poverty are said to be children.
- 20% of these children are either single or double orphans.
- 14.6% of the under 5 children were under weight and this has a negative effect on the growth of children and their adulthood.
- 75000 street children roam the streets.
- 20 000 child headinghouseholds.
The practice of child marriages is rife mostly in rural areas were girls are seen as a form of wealth by impoverished families. Early marriages have been identified as a vice that negatively impacts or linked to activities in communities that were likely to hinder development in the country such as gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health as well as human development.
Youth unemployment is still very high in Zambia and this has put enormous strain on the young people as they employ desperate measures to earn a living.
Poverty in education sector manifests itself in several ways, including the following: low enrolments, low progression, and high dropout rates; poor attendance because the children are engaged in income-generating activities to supplement family income, attending to the sick family members, and long distances to school; poor learning environments and lack of appropriate skills training; malnourished learners who are unable to achieve their full learning potential; de-motivated teachers .etc. In 2008 completion rates in the statistical bulletin illustrates that out of 88.59% of the girls who completed grade 1 to 7, only 51.22% complete grade 12. Out of a total of 672,960 OVCs who went through grades 1-9, only 46,498 managed to progress to high level, meaning that 93% of children are denied the right to education.
Prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS are higher in urban areas than rural. HIV continues to weaken family units and traditional social security systems causing a burden on both children and women. 20% of children in Zambia are either single or double orphans mainly due to HIV/AIDS. In any situation affecting children, OVCs are the worse affected being exposed to vulnerable situations liked dropping out of school, early marriages, exposed to all forms of abuse and exploitation and HIV infection.