Poverty as a Form of War

by Gershom Kabaso

“Poverty is multi-dimensional, embracing deprivations of income, access to social services, voice in decision- making, etc. And it is also a cause, an influence that perpetuates an unacceptable situation in human society. It is a consequence of the way we humans have designed the economic, political, social, cultural, gender, ecological and religious structures in society.” Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection (JCTR) 2003.

Zambia with a population of almost 14 million is grappling with poverty levels that have remained high and being more pronounced in the rural areas. There is extreme poverty of 42% in the rural populations. This arises from the high unemployment, inequality and inadequate service delivery by the government. In rural areas poverty has continued to worsen the socio-economic conditions of the people. This is despite Zambia being classified as a lower middle-income country by the World Bank.

The incidence of poverty in Zambia has continued to be high despite posting a marginal decline from 62.8 percent in 2006 to 60.5 percent in 2010 (CSO/GRZ 2011: 13). In terms of regional distribution, results further show that poverty in the country has continued to be more of a rural than urban problem. Between 2006 and 2010, rural poverty only declined from 80.3 to 77.9 percent (Ibid). In contrast, urban poverty over the same period declined from 29.7 to 27.5 percent (Ibid).

Poverty carries the face of a woman that leads to inequality in developing countries. In low and middle income countries as many as 1 girl in 7 are married off before their 15th birthday and the consequences of this are poor health, development and well being of these girls. In Zambia, the government and other civil society partners are trying to reverse this trend by coming up with educational programs for girls which will curb the vice of early child marriages in rural areas.

It is a well-known fact that poverty is not homogenous. Households made up of a family with mother, father and children are least susceptible to vulnerability. In Zambia, however, like elsewhere in the Southern African region and developing world, many households do not fit neatly into this traditional pattern of a family. Available evidence points to the fact that children and women in both urban and rural areas are disproportionately represented in poorer households. A study published in 2008 revealed that nearly 20 percent of all households are female-headed; 82 percent of whom are classified as extremely poor, compared to 64 percent of the general population (UNICEF/GRZ et al 2008:12). In rural areas, women are small scale farmers, and the majority (82 percent) are poor.

The youth are also adversely impacted by poverty as they make up 68 percent of the population. The major challenges facing the youth include unemployment, lack of access to quality education and accessibility to equal opportunities that presents itself, this has been contributed by practice of corruption by most people in high authorities. The pandemic of HIV/AIDS is a form major of human war which took most of productive age group to drive the economy of the country before the Anti Retroviral Treatment (ARV) was introduced and made cheaply available to most vulnerable groups in the society.

There are declining trends in the incidence of poverty in nearly all the provinces of Zambia with the exception of Luapula Province, which recorded a significant increase in poverty from 73.9 percent to 80.5 percent. The highest reduction in poverty during the same period was registered by Central Province, from 70.7 percent in 2006 to 60.9 percent in 2010.

Citizens believe that to contribute to poverty reduction, interventions should coherently articulate on good governance transparent and properly accountability of the national revenues, equitably share of the national resources to under developed areas, uphold basic fundamentals of the human rights, gender equality, social and economic justice.

Poverty must be fought with all the might that governments possess. President Michael Sata and his government are ensuring that their fight is against poverty. The government has introduced a number of programmes to reduce poverty levels. This is through massive infrastructure development in form of hospitals, road networks, schools and hospitals. In order to raise a decent livelihood among citizens, the government passed a minimum wage requirement of every employer to pay its’ employee monthly. Empowerment funds are being given to women and youths to enable them to establish Income Generating Activities in order to improve their livelihood.

Of course corruption is a sister problem to poverty but poverty supersedes corruption. In many cases, it is poverty that breeds corruption. Curbing poverty is the first step towards eradicating corruption. (Charles Mwewa- Author September 2012). The government has continued to fight this scourge so that resources are channelled to the intended purpose of improving the lives of citizens.

Effective poverty eradication programmes and promotion of pro-poor economic growth policies must build up real solidarity. Solidarity does not demand a more equitable society where everyone has exactly the same. But it does demand a more equitable society where the gross inequalities of participation and distribution are eliminated.

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