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The Republic of Zambia is a developing sub-Saharan African nation with a population of approximately 12 million people.   The population is highly urbanised, with almost 50% of of the population concentrated in a few urban areas, mainly around the capital Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt region in the northwest, while rural areas are sparsely populated. Rural inhabitants are mainly subsistence farmers. Political situation Zambia achieved independence from the UK in 1964 and now has a stable, democratically elected government. The country is at peace with all its neighbours.


Natural resources include copper, minerals, wild life parks/ tourism, and land suitable for agriculture of any kind.  The Zambian government is achieving some success in attracting successful farmers who are leaving Zimbabwe. Falling copper prices, lack of investment, economic mismanagement, and disease (especially AIDS) have contributed to making Zambia one of the world’s poorest nations. Unemployment and underemployment in urban areas are serious problems, with unemployment conservatively estimated to be 50%.   About 68% of Zambians live below the recognised national poverty threshold, with rural poverty rates ~ 78% and urban rates ~ 53%.  The average per capita income (about one-half their levels at independence), is approximately US $800 (World Bank, 2007), [although many estimates are $350], placing Zambia as one of the world’s poorest countries. 51% of the population are reportedly living on less than one dollar per day. Zambia’s geographical position, landlocked between several nations, has also contributed to its economic difficulties.  Thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries pour in annually from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Angola and Zimbabwe into refugee camps, or (illegally) directly into the community.   According to the World Refugee Survey 2008 published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, there are approximately 120,000 refugees in Zambia.

Health and well-being

Zambians are happy, peace-loving people whose family unit is central to daily life and essential for survival. However HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and simple diseases are creating widows and orphans at an alarming rate. Social indicators are poor, particularly in measurements of life expectancy at birth (~ 41 years),  maternal mortality (830 per 100,000 pregnancies), and infant mortality (102 per 1000 live births). Child mortality (under 5 years of age) is 200 per I, 000 births.  The country’s rate of economic growth cannot support rapid population growth or the strain which HIV/AIDS related issues (i.e. rising medical costs, decline in worker productivity) place on government resources. Access to healthcare is difficult for most Zambians, and almost impossible for those who live in Kafue compound, the location of New Beginnings Children’s Village.  Nationwide, hospitals are underresourced (money, staff, equipment, expertise) and too expensive for the average person.  For example, a CT scan costs $250 which must be paid for by the patient. A person in full time employment may earn $20-56/week, therefore a CT scan is unaffordable for most.  A consultation with a respiratory specialist and medications will cost approximately $80.00.  While hospital treatment is not free, some treatments are subsidised by the government – for example treatment for malaria costs approximately A$8.50.  Pregnant women and young children have almost no immunity to malaria and are thus the most vulnerable to it.  For most, even this type of health care is simply unaffordable. The Zambian staple diet is based on maize (corn), normally prepared as a thick porridge called nshima (pronounced sheema). This is usually eaten with vegetables such as tomato, onion, beans, sometimes ground nuts, and if affordable, meat or fish. Most Zambians eat only one meal a day.  A current shortage of maize has seen its’ price increase by ~ 20%, creating hardship for the poorest who rely on nshima for the greater part of their diet.   A bar of soap or a toilet roll costs A$0.50. These items are unaffordable for most in Kafue compound. Development Needs / Issues Unemployment, underemployment, and an unprecedented number of orphans created by the AIDS epidemic are straining family, community and government resources.  In 2000 it was estimated that Zambia already had 50% unemployment and 600,000 orphans, and the figure is likely to be over one million orphans today.  Because of the high value Zambians place on ‘family’, many of these orphans are absorbed /informally adopted into families who may or may not be relatives.  Yet even this safety net is being stretched to breaking point by the sheer numbers of orphans involved, and by economic hardship as families struggle to even feed their own children.  In addition, most families are caring for at least one chronically ill adult (usually with AIDS or TB), placing an additional burden on the family carer, usually the mother or female family head. Losing one or both parents to AIDS usually has serious consequences for a Zambian child, including loss of  access to basic necessities such as shelter, food, clothing, health and education. Orphans are more likely than non-orphans to live in large, female-headed households where more people are dependent on fewer and lower income earners. This lack of income puts extra pressure on AIDS orphans to contribute financially to the household, in some cases driving them to the streets to work, beg or seek food at a very early age.

Health and HIV/AIDS in Zambia

Zambia’s population is about 11 – 12 million people.  HIV prevalence in Zambian adults is currently about 15.2 %, with approximately 1.67 million Zambians HIV positive.  Approximately 52,000 Zambians died of AIDS in 2007. This is a drop from 2001 when 99,000 were estimated to have died.  As a result of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, more than 30,000 children are born HIV-positive each year in Zambia.  Since the HIV/AIDS pandemic hit Zambia, the average life expectancy has dropped from 50 years to 40 years.  AIDS has left a generation of orphans in its wake: Over 30% of all Zambian children under the age of 15 are currently orphans.  The estimates of children living on the streets of Zambia varies from 75,000 to the 100,000s with an estimated 69% being 14 years or younger. The number of street children in Lusaka (the capital) jumped from 35,000 in 1991 to 90,000 in 1998, partly because of the growing number of parents who had died from AIDS. The population of Lusaka is currently around 1.5 million. Homeless children from the rural areas often find their way to the towns and cities. Even though HIV is so prevalent, malaria is still the leading killer of children in Zambia. Zambia has up to 4,000,000 cases of malaria per year. The most vulnerable to death by malaria are babies, children and pregnant women.


Kafue compound – the target site Kafue compound, approximately 70 km south-west of the capital city Lusaka, has a population of around 10,000 people who live in traditional 1 to 2-room, small mud-brick homes, mostly without running water, electricity or sanitation.  Even so, these people are meticulously clean, collecting water daily from a community tap or the Kafue river for bathing, clothes washing, drinking and food preparation. Major industries in and around Kafue (including Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia and Kafue Textiles of Zambia, Zambia Concrete and others) collapsed in an economic downturn in the 1990s creating massive local unemployment.  Many people turned to subsistence farming, and some moved from the area to seek work in Lusaka or other small towns.  Due to the world wide economic recession, the new Steel plant in Kafue has been partially closed.  According to the ‘Labour Force Survey, 2008’, only 600 of Kafue’s 10,000 residents are employed. Like most areas in Zambia, Kafue compound has an orphan crisis. Families have absorbed orphans to capacity, and poverty secondary to unemployment, underemployment, single parent households, AIDS, and malaria has overwhelmed the already stretched resources.  Orphans, the community’s most vulnerable individuals, are now at high risk of malnutrition and disease because of poverty.


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