Even if you have never been to the African continent, you can probably imagine the level of poverty in a country like Zambia. Not unlike residents of other Third World countries, Zambians live in abject poverty. Per capita Gross National Income (GNI) is only USD$320. According to poverty reports from the World Bank, more than a million Zambians live on USD$1.00 per day, a level of poverty that exists in even in the more affluent major cities, like Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.
Poor sanitation and poverty results in high infant (about 300 per 1000 live births) and maternal (650 per 100,000 live births) mortality rates. The average life expectancy is only 35 years. HIV Aids places an additional burden on Zambia's weak healthcare capabilities. The number of facilities are inadequate and they do not have the ability to care for HIV Aids patients.
Unlike the counterparts of Third World countries, such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, there is no safety net (i.e. unemployment insurance, housing subsidies, food stamps) to assist the poor with living. Zambians are no less affected. Poor Zambians have to rely on charity, aid programs to help them develop the infrastructure and skills capacities to become more self-sustaining. In some communities, they have to walk for miles just to fetch their daily drinking water and some have to boil it to make sure it is safe for drinking. Daily living, literally, becomes a process of scraping for food and water.
Zambia does have capacities that represent potential for sustainable development. Reports from those who know Zambia report of its beautiful landmarks everywhere, embodied in the mountainous terrains and the spectacular natural wonders (i.e. Victoria Falls, Zambezi River). Its rich soils produce a bounty of various crops that range from fruits (i.e. sugar cane, avocado, grapes) to grains (i.e. wheat and rice). These are only some of the foods grown there. The literacy rate (87% males, 75% females) indicates an educated workforce that would be receptive to capacity trainings.
The government is seeking to diversify its economic exports, a decision learned after the country's income (GNP, GDP) plummeted from the drop in the value of copper, which was Zambia's primary industrial export. The government also hopes to gain dollars from the growing tourism market.
Dreams are thwarted by poverty. To cope psychologically, the poor settle for philosophies that make them feel better about their situation. In the Philippines, the saying "bahala na" means "well, just leave it alone", which is to say that fate must be left up to God because there is nothing they can do about it. From where the poor are on the Kuznet's inequality curve, this is true. But to those, who can influence change and betterment, "bahala na" is simply an excuse. The situation in Zambia clearly justifies aid and volunteer support from individuals and agencies that have the willingness and the ability to help.
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