Renewable Energy in Zambia
Zambia has enjoyed significant economic growth in the past few decades. With prosperity, its demand for electricity has increased. However, the current energy supply has struggled to meet this demand. Zambia relies on hydroelectric power for more than 85% of its electricity, and frequent droughts have prevented these plants from operating at full capacity. Further, the average nationwide access to electricity is 30%. Worse yet, only 5% of the rural population has electricity access. The Zambian government has set a target of 50% electricity access across the nation by 2030. As electricity demands continue to grow, the expansion of renewable energy in Zambia is critical for the country’s social and economic development.

Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project

To aid in the sustainable development of Zambia’s energy resources, renewable energy projects are underway. One such initiative is the European Union (EU)-funded Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project. The project is a collaboration between the EU and the Zambian government to provide technical assistance to the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) of Zambia. The project’s assistance will help fund the REA’s development of energy infrastructure. The project began in 2017 and should have reached completion in 2021.

Specifically, the Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project is striving to establish a collection of solar-powered mini-grids to provide electricity to rural Zambian communities. Mini-grids are small electricity generators interconnected to an energy distribution network. These are useful in Zambia because they do not require the construction of long stretches of electrical lines. They will provide electricity to an estimated 10,000 people living in rural communities in Zambia.

Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant

Another initiative to develop renewable energy in Zambia is the Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development in Zambia project. Created by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, this initiative seeks to bring readily available and local renewable energy sources. One of the initiative’s projects is the construction of the Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant, which the Zambian government commissioned in 2012. The Shiwang’andu plant supplies a solar mini-grid that will provide electricity to more than 25,000 people in the Mpanta region.

Hydropower plants generate power using the energy that the flow of water creates. This energy generation requires the water to flow across an elevation difference, from a higher point to a lower point. Usually, dams are built in running bodies of water, such as rivers, to construct this elevation difference.

Because constructing hydropower plants involves building dams in bodies of water, the developers of the Shiwang’andu plant had to consider the plant’s impact on wildlife. They installed a second dam during construction to divert water, which maintained normal downstream water flow. They also included a 1.5-meter gate within the dam to help fish, crabs, shrimp and other migrating animals.

Renewable Energy Key to Expand Sustainable Access to Electricity

As Zambia continues to see economic growth, and as it aims to provide electricity access to a greater percentage of its population, its energy demands will continue to increase. The development of renewable energy in Zambia is an efficient and eco-friendly way to expand the country’s energy resources.  It should provide sustainable access to electricity for more Zambians in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Developing Solar Power in Zambia
Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa that receives between “2,000 to 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.” The country benefits greatly from its location along the Zambezi and Kafue Rivers and has become highly dependent on hydropower, with hydroelectric dams providing more than 85% of its total energy in 2021. Unfortunately, recent droughts have led to prolonged blackouts and an increase in energy poverty across the country. To help combat this issue, the government is investing in a new source of renewable energy: solar power. Solar power in Zambia has the potential to transform the country’s economy along with the lives of citizens.

Energy Poverty in Zambia

The U.N. defines energy poverty as a lack of “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.” According to USAID, approximately 69% of Zambia’s 17.35 million citizens suffer from energy poverty. Energy poverty is an even larger issue for people living in rural areas — USAID estimates that 96% of rural citizens do not have access to electricity in 2021.

Energy poverty has significant negative impacts on individual homes, affecting education, health and even political participation. However, widespread energy poverty also affects the economy as a whole as it is nearly impossible for businesses to operate without power. Furthermore, a lack of power in the home presents a barrier for remote work and remote education. Implementing solar power in Zambia could be the solution.

When droughts began to cause extensive blackouts, ZESCO, the leading state-owned power company in Zambia, had “to raise tariffs by as much as 200%” in 2019 to afford the cost of importing power from South Africa. While this short-term solution prevented total economic collapse, the Zambian government quickly came to the realization that a more reliable source of renewable energy is necessary. The development of solar power in Zambia has the potential to sustainably lift millions out of energy poverty, improving the lives of individual citizens and jumpstarting Zambia’s economy as a whole.

The Transition From Hydropower

The Kariba Dam is one of Zambia’s largest hydroelectric constructions. When droughts hit in 2019, water levels at the dam “plunged to their lowest level since 1996,” causing nationwide blackouts. This prompted the development of solar power in Zambia as sunlight in Africa is a much more dependable source of energy than water. Furthermore, while the energy from large-scale hydroelectric dams is very centralized, smaller solar power grids can serve as decentralized sources, allowing for power to reach isolated rural communities.

In March 2019, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu introduced the Bangweulu Scaling Solar Plant to Zambia, a 54-milliwatt power plant projected to lift 30,000 private homes and “several businesses” out of energy poverty. Following the inflated energy tariffs that power outages caused in 2019, the Scaling Solar Program was able to lower tariffs to $0.06 cents per kilowatt-hour, a much more affordable price for Zambians suffering from energy poverty.

By 2030, the government of Zambia hopes to increase its electricity generation to 6,000 megawatts. A single 54-megawatt solar power plant saves Zambia nearly $140 million in capital over 25 years, serving as a game-changer for the country’s economy. The expansion of solar power in Zambia will alleviate pressure on local water sources and allow for the rejuvenation of hydroelectric power plants. The Scaling Solar Program’s innovative projects put Zambia in an optimal position to capitalize on solar technology and improve the well-being of all citizens.

Looking Ahead

The continued development of solar power in Zambia is a pivotal way for the country to address energy poverty, especially in rural areas. Not only will this innovation revitalize Zambia’s economy but it will also improve health and education on an individual level. Overall, Zambia is in a prime position to reduce poverty and enhance the quality of life for all citizens through the power of the sun.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr


In the year 2011, Zambia moved up in income status with a reclassification from a low-income country to a middle-income country. The reclassification stems from improvements in Zambia’s economic and social structures. Zambia has made strides in the education realm in particular, with high primary school education completion rates. However, due to geographical barriers and higher rates of poverty, access to education in rural Zambia does not see the same equality as other parts of the country. Acknowledging the role of education in poverty reduction, it is imperative to improve access to education in rural Zambia.

School Completion in Zambia

A point of pride for Zambia is its national primary school completion rate, which stands at 91.8%. However, when comparing the national primary school completion rate with semi-urban or rural regions, regional discrepancies become apparent. In Zambia’s northern region, comprising mostly of rural areas, this rate stands at 81.3%, indicating clear geographic disparities in completion rates.

Despite high national primary school completion rates, just 67% of students go on to attend high school. Barriers to high school attendance include a lack of secondary schools “to accommodate all primary school graduates.” Additionally, school fees are necessary from eighth grade upward, which many impoverished families cannot afford.

Poverty and Access to Education in Rural Zambia

For students living in rural areas, the long distance to educational establishments presents an additional barrier. In fact, rural Zambia faces the most obstacles in keeping children in school because there are few schools, often far from students’ homes. Most rural Zambians cannot afford the costs of transportation to schools because rural areas face a higher rate of poverty.

Furthermore, impoverished families struggle to afford the costs of school fees. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in rural Zambia stood at 76.7% in 2015 while the urban rate stood at 23.4%. The World Bank also estimates that about 75% of Zambia’s impoverished reside in rural regions.

This has far-reaching impacts. Children who do not go to school often end up in child labor in order to contribute to household income. Furthermore, parents marry off their young girls to ease the economic burden on the family. Access to education in rural Zambia will lower both child labor and child marriage rates while providing a pathway out of poverty.

In order to improve access to education in rural Zambia, the most significant barrier to education, poverty, must stand as a priority in aid efforts. In order to keep more children in school in Zambia, geographical location and financial means must not stand as barriers to education.

CAMFED Zambia Takes Action

CAMFED Zambia began in 2011, initially working in Zambia’s rural areas, such as the northern region. In particular, girls in rural areas face a higher rate of exclusion from education. Thus, CAMFED Zambia “empowers the most marginalized girls in rural Zambia to attain a full secondary school education.” With CAMFED’s efforts, the female students it supports “achieve a completion rate of 96% and a progression rate of 98%.”

CAMFED also supports the education of other marginalized children. Since its beginnings, CAMFED Zambia has helped more than 400,000 children obtain primary and secondary education through donor support. “CAMFED provides holistic support” in the form of “school or exam fees, uniforms, sanitary wear, books, pens, bikes, boarding fees or disability aids” to ensure children remain in school.

Efforts to improve access to education in rural Zambia ensure that children gain the knowledge and skills to rise out of poverty. With an education, these children are able to secure higher-paying, skilled jobs, enabling them to contribute to growing Zambia’s economy overall.

– Hariana Sethi
Photo: Flickr

how-small-town-rotary-clubs-fight-global-poverty
The rotary sign is a common sight alongside the parks and roads that rotary clubs maintain. However, what many people may not realize is that even the smallest rotary clubs are part of an international organization that unites 1.2 million Rotarians across 35,000 clubs worldwide. These rotary clubs contribute to Rotary International’s efforts to serve communities, beginning more than 110 years ago. Small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty by supporting international service programs, such as Rotary Community Corps, Rotaract and Rotary Peace Fellows. These programs teach leadership skills and address global humanitarian issues. As a result, small-town rotary clubs’ service activities promote world peace, fight diseases, protect the environment, provide clean water, support women and children and grow developing economies. Here is how three small-town rotary clubs are fighting global poverty.

How 3 Small-Town Rotary Clubs are Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Rotary Club of Nome. Supporting its townspeople for 75 years, the Rotary Club of Nome sets a rugged example of how small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty. The club’s humanitarian activities include a 2014 collaboration with the Rotary Club of Central Tandag to provide medical supplies, hygiene supplies, clothing and food to 49 indigenous families living in a remote village in Surigao Del Sur, Philippines. The club also contributes yearly to ShelterBox, an international disaster relief charity established in 2000 that provides emergency aid to families that disaster or conflict displaced. ShelterBox aid includes emergency shelter kits containing materials such as tarps, mortar and tent pegs as well as cooking tools, solar lights and learning games for children. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Nome Rotary Club President Adam R. Lust told The Borgen Project that the club is working on a proposal to fund a month of food resources for the village of Masai Mara, Kenya. Lust hopes the project is just the beginning and that it will lead to a more extensive, sustainable program in the future.
  2. Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor. This club has 70 active community leaders committed to humanitarianism, with 15% of the club’s fundraising efforts going toward supporting international projects. The Boothbay Haborclub is a long-standing supporter of Safe Passage, a nonprofit school that creates educational opportunities for children and families who live and work at the Guatemala City dump in Guatemala. The club also helps to support Thai Daughters, an organization that “provides education, safe shelter and emotional support to girls” in Northern Thailand who are at risk of becoming sex trafficking victims. The club also supports Healthy Kids/Brighter Future, a program that Communities Without Borders runs. It provides access to education to Zambian children, with teachers who have training in first-line medical care. In addition, the Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor provides support to Partners in World Health, PolioPlus and Crutches4Africa, among other organizations.
  3. Rotary Club of Crested Butte. This club puts an emphasis on benefiting youth. The club’s international outreach activities include supplying “English and Khmer language books” to Cambodian children to improve literacy rates. Additionally, the club sent “learning toys & games to Burmese refugee centers in Mae Sot, Thailand” to improve refugee children’s education in a stimulating way.

How to Help Small-Town Rotary Clubs Fight Global Poverty

One of the ways to help small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty is to become a member. Rotary membership is “by invitation only.” An individual can receive an invitation to join a club by someone who is already a member or one can attend a meeting as a guest and fill out a membership application form. If one is unsure of which club to join, Rotary International’s membership page has a questionnaire to assist in this regard.

However, one does not have to become a Rotary member to support a local rotary club. There are many opportunities to volunteer services, from canned food drives and park maintenance to tax preparation and building houses. Rotary International is part of a searchable database that helps potential volunteers find projects within their respective locations.

Whether one becomes a member, volunteers locally or travels abroad for one of rotary’s many international service activities, it is important to remember that every humanitarian effort of a rotary club contributes to reducing global poverty and empowering the most disadvantaged people at every corner of the globe. Every individual can help small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty simply by involving themselves in their initiatives.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Reduce HIV/AIDS in Zambia
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is an infection that can transfer through sex. It attacks cells in the human body that fight diseases, thus making it a dangerous infection. With about 38 million people in the world suffering from HIV, it has become a prominent issue, especially since there is no definite cure for the infection. As a result, in many African countries like Zambia, the number of HIV cases is significant. Through the exploration of HIV in impoverished countries, research has shown that there is a correlation between poverty and a lack of education with the numbers of HIV cases. Here is some information about HIV in Zambia including efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS in Zambia.

About HIV/AIDS in Zambia

Evidence shows that Zambia is among the first 10 countries with the most cases of HIV. An estimated 1.5 million inhabitants of Zambia had HIV/AIDS as of 2020, with an adult prevalence of 11.1%. Additionally, Zambia has experienced a total of 24,000 deaths due to HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS is quite prevalent among adults from ages 15 to 59 in Zambia, with a greater prevalence among females than males. Additionally, HIV is most prevalent among older adults, with 73.5% of infected women and 73% of infected men being 45 to 59 years of age. This demonstrates that approximately 980,000 people between the ages of 45 and 59 in Zambia suffer from HIV/AIDS.

The Link Between Poverty and HIV/AIDS

Research has found a strong connection between poverty and HIV cases; those living under the poverty line are more likely to obtain a sexually transmitted infection, such as HIV. Studies have found that those who are in circumstances of poverty in Zambia are often likely to resort to illegal means of work, such as sex trafficking or prostitution. The U.S. Department of State’s annual reports state that sex traffickers often exploit women in Zambia with money or food, placing Zambia on a severe Tier 2 ranking for sex trafficking. Additionally, the loss of jobs from COVID-19 resulted in an increase in the poverty rate in Zambia, going from 11.19% in 2019 to 12.17% in 2020. This shows that vulnerable young women below the poverty rate became desperate for money, thus resorting to the sex trafficking industry, where the circumstances led to the transmission of HIV.

Children’s Risk for HIV/AIDS in Zambia

Zambia’s population of children with HIV is a prominent issue; infections among children between the ages of 0 and 15 border at approximately 6,000 a year. In 2018, 79% of the children with HIV received antiretroviral therapy (ART), which is an effective means of treating HIV/AIDS. Of the children in Zambia who did not receive ART, 50% of them died before their second birthday. Additionally, the U.N. estimates that there is a total of 1 million children in Zambia who are either orphans or vulnerable to bribery, resulting in them being frequent targets of the sex trafficking business.

Potential Solutions to Reduce HIV/AIDS in Zambia

An example of an NGO (non-government organizations) in Zambia that focuses on preventing HIV in Zambia is the Kara Counseling and Training Trust (KCTT). This organization began in 1989 with the purpose of counseling people in Zambia who suffer from HIV/AIDS. Additionally, UNICEF’s HIV program in Zambia provides preventative resources for Zambian citizens in order to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. It has initiated several new programs, such as the National Paediatric and Adolescent Prevention, Treatment and Care Implementation Plan of 2017. Though there is currently a prevalence of HIV cases in Zambia, NGOs like the KCTT and UNICEF can be of great aid to people in need and can provide hope for resolving this issue.

Though the issue of HIV has been prevalent in Zambia for a long time, recent developments from different organizations have provided hope for the issue to reduce. By spreading awareness of the danger of HIV/AIDS and its causes, along with the distribution of preventative resources in Zambia, there is a high chance that the rates of HIV/AIDS in Zambia will reduce over the next few years.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

IMF Loan Could Lead Zambia Out Of Debt Crisis
Landlocked Zambia, a country with a population of more than 18 million people, is fighting to stay afloat as it struggles to repay about $13 billion in external debts. Up to a quarter of the Zambian debt crisis has links to China or Chinese entities, complicating the nation’s ability to access any IMF relief. The classified nature of deals with the People’s Republic of China can limit international organizations from aiding nations that are struggling.

Understanding the Situation

Combating a drop in agricultural output, falling copper prices and drought, the Zambian economy was weakening even prior to the pandemic. After the emergence of COVID-19, gains from tourism fell, and the nation had to increasingly depend on its copper reserves to sustain its economy. The export of copper accounts for more than 70% of Zambia’s “export earnings,” meaning that the nation is highly vulnerable to even the smallest changes in copper value.

Leaders indicated that the economic turmoil that the Zambian debt crisis caused was too much to handle. Zambia was the first African nation to default on its loans during the pandemic in November 2020. In addition, Zambia has one of the world’s highest poverty rates. About 58% of the population lives below the poverty line; in sub-Saharan Africa overall, 41% live below the poverty line. The population is also growing at 2.8% per year, which will put a larger strain on the country’s limited resources and weakened infrastructure over time.

Since Zambia is landlocked, the nation serves as a trucking center and transportation hub in Southern Africa, meaning that the spread of COVID-19 has been more devastating as well. As of October 10, 2021, Zambia has had more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases, more than double of some neighboring nations. Coupled with preexisting poverty, much of the Zambian population faces daily worries about food security.

Upcoming Solution

Prior to the 2021 Zambian elections, people knew former President Edgar Lungu’s administration for its strained relations with the IMF. General consensus held that it was unlikely that there would be a way out of the Zambian debt crisis. The government had also recently purchased a copper mine using $1.5 billion, which could complicate the IMF’s analysis on Zambia’s liabilities and whether they were eligible for funds.

However, the appointment of Zambia’s newest finance minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane, has the potential to change the future of the Zambian debt crisis. Musokotwane was previously the Zambian finance minister from 2008-2011 under Rupiah Banda and was responsible for the implementation of the last IMF program. Under his leadership, the economy grew by about 7.6%. Interest rates fell from over 45% to 18%. Musokotwane has also served as an “alternate Governor at the IMF, African Development Bank, and World Bank,” denoting his expertise and positive reputation in the field of economics. With his role, Musokotwane is more likely to secure access to IMF funds and rework the Zambian budget, which may eliminate the nation’s need to depend on foreign loans in the first place.

– Shruti Patankar
Photo: Unsplash

President Hichilema
In August 2021, Zambia elected a new president, Hakainde Hichilema, who will replace the incumbent President Edgar Lungu. Based on the results of the August 12 elections, Hichilema will serve as the Republic of Zambia’s seventh president. Previously, President Hilchilema ran five unsuccessful campaigns. However, the election saw a strong turnout among voters between the ages of 18 and 24 and Hichilema’s victory marks a new era for a nation that is in dire need of economic growth.

Zambia’s Dire State

Zambia is struggling economically as it became the first African nation to default on its debt in the coronavirus era in 2019. The country was experiencing a recession prior to the COVID-19 pandemic due to a steep decline in commodity prices. Since then, the country has struggled to pay off its international debts. With the onset of the pandemic, which further slowed the nation’s economy, the country accumulated roughly $12 billion in external debt. Additionally, $3 billion of this debt comes from international bonds and large loans from Chinese state-owned lenders. The country is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while currently awaiting word on a $13 billion bailout.

Zambia’s poverty rate currently sits around 58%, significantly higher than the 41% rate for all of Sub-Saharan Africa. As a nation that faces massive challenges in the form of international debt and domestic poverty, the world is curious to know what Hichilema’s election means for poverty in Zambia.

Hichilema’s Story

President Hichilema himself is a witness to the challenges that many rural Zambians experience. He refers to himself as a “cattle boy,” coming from a humble upbringing raising livestock. His personal story is one of success despite poverty. Having earned a scholarship to the University of Zambia, and later studying in England, Hichilema is now one of Zambia’s wealthiest people. He made a fortune as a businessman in various endeavors, from finance and property to tourism and healthcare.

Many young voters flocked to his voting camp with this story in mind. His agricultural roots appealed to many of the nation’s farmers. Likewise, his economic-minded platform addresses the country’s foremost needs that many citizens feel former President Lungu worsened.

What Can President Hichilema Accomplish?

One of Hichilema’s economic strategies under his administration is to take advantage of Zambia’s natural resources. The country is Africa’s second-leading producer of copper. Copper is becoming more advantageous economically as companies and industries move away from fossil fuel energy. Additionally, new technologies like electric vehicles rely on critical minerals like copper. The mining sector accounts for roughly three-quarters of Zambia’s export revenue.

Zambia’s political history in the mining industry has been testy. Under the Lungu regime, the government consolidated mines and created state-owned quarries, mostly as a ploy to maintain Lungu’s political power. Furthermore, foreign investors looking to capitalize on the unstable nation might be able to swoop in and cut safety requirements, leading to further crises.

By reexamining the mining codes and regulations, Hichilema has an opportunity to create long-term capital investments, jobs and economic growth. Other countries like Madagascar called on the World Bank to act as a third-party mediator between industry and government in the mining industry. Such a strategy could help Zambia take advantage of a booming copper market and assist in addressing the nation’s poverty needs.

With the new presidency of Hakainde Hichilema comes a new opportunity to reduce poverty in Zambia. Hichilema has shown a dedication to improving these conditions throughout his campaign and his ability to follow through on these promises and successfully manage Zambia’s mining industry could drive down poverty in the nation.

– Sam Dils
Photo: Flickr

Spreading Awareness About Fistulas in ZambiaFistulas in Zambia are still a devastating problem for impoverished, young mothers despite being preventable. An obstetric fistula occurs when a mother endures prolonged (oftentimes up to five days long) labor in which obstruction occurs. This obstruction then cuts off the blood supply and causes tissue death. Tissue death leads to holes between the vagina and bladder or rectum. Without treatment, fistulas can mean a woman will “uncontrollably leak urine, stool or sometimes both” for a lifetime. The Fistula Foundation and other organizations seek to help women suffering from fistulas in Zambia.

The Cost of Fistula Surgery

The fistulas come with a myriad of infections and chronic pain and can even cause nerve damage to the legs. While fistulas in Zambia are completely preventable and treatable, there are significant barriers to care for mothers. The surgical costs range from $100-400, an expense that is often far higher than what the majority of patients can afford.

4 Factors That Increase the Risk of Fistulas

  1. Malnutrition: Persistent malnutrition is linked to the development of a smaller pelvis, which increases the risk of an obstructed delivery, potentially leading to the formation of a fistula.
  2. Child Marriage: Early motherhood means the narrower pelvises of underdeveloped girls make an obstructed delivery more likely.
  3. Lack of Education: When young women are pulled out of school for marriage and childbearing without proper knowledge about their bodies, the delivery process and their reproductive systems, health consequences ensue. A lack of proper reproductive health education leads to a lack of awareness about the preventability and treatability of fistulas.
  4. Poverty: Poverty augments the chance of food insecurity, younger marriage, childbearing and sacrificing a woman’s education for family duties. Even more importantly, poverty makes access to healthcare that much more difficult. Fistulas are also more prevalent in births that take place outside of medical facilities as women undergoing an obstructed delivery are unable to get a C-section or emergency medical assistance.

In wealthier countries that properly address these four issues, fistulas are virtually unheard of, showing that poor health outcomes and poverty are inextricably linked.

Stigmatization of Fistulas in Zambia

While the medical ramifications of fistulas are devastating, these consequences come in conjunction with complete social ostracization and shame. Husbands often view the typically stillborn births that come with fistulas as a failure of the mother. It is very common for husbands to shame and abandon their wives, labeling the woman’s medical issues as personal failures.

Doctors often do not adequately inform women with fistulas that they have a legitimate medical issue. The abandonment from their husbands is soon joined by the same treatment from family and friends. The isolation and stigma increase the risk of depression among women suffering from fistulas. Lack of proper awareness and education means fistulas have become a source of shame. Hence, many women suffer in silence for decades, even until death.

Spreading Awareness Through Radio

In 2017, the Fistula Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to providing impoverished young women with proper and free medical attention for fistulas, launched a radio program to educate communities about fistulas in Zambia. The program reached extensively into many provinces of Zambia and mobilized many women to seek proper medical care to repair their fistulas at the six Zambian fistula care centers the organization established to perform the reconstruction surgery for free.

In 2019 alone, the Fistula Foundation performed 319 fistula repair surgeries, all free of charge. In total, the Foundation has aided in the provision of 774 surgeries. The Fistula Foundation also partnered with the famous Zambian singer Wezi to air a song about the dangers of fistulas. The spread of this song, through both radio and CDs, has created a surge in Zambian women seeking treatment. As a direct result of Wezi’s song, 56 women have sought treatment.

Grassroots Activism

In conjunction with the awareness campaigns and Wezi’s song, the Fistula Foundation has encouraged grassroots movements like the Safe Motherhood Action Group (SMAG) to work with community volunteers to spread awareness to help prevent fistulas and end stigma. SMAG leads discussions within communities about the dangers of child marriage with regard to the increased rates of fistulas in young mothers, the necessity of keeping girls in school and the importance of delivering children in medical facilities. SMAG has implemented more than 3,000 community outreach programs, reaching more than 90,000 people with crucial information about fistulas and interconnected social issues.

The Fistula Foundation heavily relies on community leaders to spread the word, designating them the “entry points” to communities and change. The organization’s work highlights the importance of creative community engagement and education initiatives in promoting proper care and destigmatization of fistulas in Zambia.

Jaya Patten
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Zambia
Child poverty remains an issue in Zambia, a country with a very young population. According to estimates, about 46% of Zambians are aged 14 and younger and the median age is one of the world’s lowest at a mere 16.8 years. The young average age is part of why child poverty is especially rampant in Zambia.

Child Poverty in Zambia

Nearly 42% of Zambia’s population is classified as extremely impoverished. As almost half the population consists of children, child poverty is a grave concern. Many Zambian children lack adequate healthcare, nutrition and housing. Families’ struggles for these basic needs force them to keep their children out of school, and instead, send them into the workforce. According to a U.S. Bureau of International Labor Affairs report, Zambia’s most prevalent form of child labor is agricultural work. Working children face long workdays and physical abuse as they attempt to earn an income to secure their basic needs.

Causes of Child Poverty in Zambia

The youthful country’s population continues to grow, which UNICEF considers the leading cause of its high child poverty rate. The fertility rate is 4.7 children per woman, with an annual population growth rate of 3.2%. An increase in children for those who are already not financially stable worsens monetary problems, and when many financially struggling families have more children, it causes a jump in child poverty.

About one out of five children in Zambia does not live with their parents, leading to a large number of children living on the streets. These children are susceptible to dangers such as abuse, alcohol and drug addiction and prostitution.

Despite the country’s efforts to eliminate gender disparities, which have allowed for girls to enroll in school in the same numbers as boys, education access remains an issue. Families struggle to pay fees required for attendance and battle to provide their children with the transportation needed to travel long distances to school.

Zambia’s large child population leaves schools struggling with overpopulation and lacking sufficient study materials. School buildings are unsafe, people rarely follow sanitation policies, teachers do not always have the qualifications needed and sexual abuse raises concern. In addition to poor school conditions, the pressure on children to provide for their families also leads to a decrease in children attending school.

CAMFED Zambia

Initiatives have emerged in order to combat child poverty in Zambia. For example, Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) is an organization that works to improve the likelihood of Zambian children remaining in school. Founded in 1993, the organization aims to improve children’s access to education and ensure they finish school.

Zambian girls are more likely to drop out of school than males, with 13% of girls in rural areas having no education compared with just 5% of males in urban areas. According to CAMFED, poverty, child marriage and early pregnancy are the main factors that keep girls in rural areas from attending school.

CAMFED provides girls and people with disabilities with comprehensive material and non-material support and helps make them aware of the full potential they can live up to. Inspiring words and material necessities work together to show how important education is.

CAMFED’s Achievements

As of 2021, CAMFED Zambia has expanded its operations from three districts to 47 districts across four provinces. Girls who have accepted its support have demonstrated a school completion rate of 96%, with 98% of girls making at least some progress in school.

CAMFED has supported about 6,787 government partner schools across more than 161 districts in not only Zambia but Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi as well. The program has also managed to provide 376,898 students with secondary scholarships.

CAMFED works toward providing females with long-term support for their education, and, CAMFED’s reason is simple. Everyone should have an equal opportunity at living a full life, regardless of financial status. Through CAMFED Zambia, the children of Zambia are learning that receiving an education is possible and a life of poverty is not the only option.

Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

Libraries Helping Communities Around the World
Libraries are often the cornerstone of communities. Libraries offer people free internet, resources, events, workshops and books. These resources allow many people to pursue education. In the United States, more people have easy access to libraries than in developing nations. However, there have been libraries helping communities all over the world find creative ways to access the resources a library can provide.

The Zambia Library Service

The Zambia Library Service aims to bring more provincial and public libraries to the country, to improve the libraries in schools and colleges, and to provide more digital resources to educators. This library now has a collection of more than 60,000 books, despite struggling to receive government support. The library service started six provincial libraries that serve about 400,000 individual members and 850,000 institutions every year. Furthermore, it established the Zambia Knowledge Center in 2011 to help provide Zambia’s educators and students with a wealth of online sources from around the globe.

The library continues to advocate for the expansion of copyright laws so that more people can receive access to videos, e-books, audiobooks, journals and websites. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zambia Library Service aims to provide new opportunities for community members to engage with the library. It hosts movie nights, events for International Girl Child Day and a Girl’s Club.

Bangkok’s The Library Train Project

Police Major General Jarumporn Suramanee started The Little Train Project in Bangkok in 1999. He converted two old train cars into a library and education center. These cars have a school area for classroom lessons and a library with books, computers and a television. Suramanee initiated this project because the number of homeless children in the city had been steadily increasing. As such, it was designed to give children an opportunity to receive an education, a place to stay during the day and options for a better future.

Bangkok’s library train features lessons in typical academic subjects and classes on topics such as manners, sports and gardening. Though children are not required to attend class, many enjoy coming to the library to use the resources it has to offer. Furthermore, the library has aided its patrons in other ways, such as helping individuals find a job or helping homeless children find families who want to take them in. It is also intentionally located in the park so it is as accessible as possible.

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos was a boat that aimed to give books and other cultural resources to small, rural, fjord communities. The ship visited 150 small villages in less than a month after it was built in 1959. The boat was designed to hold 6,000 books, but it often circulated 20,000 books at a time. Furthermore, the ship would often bring other events such as concerts and plays—usually the only cultural events these villages would see in a year.

Unfortunately, The Bokbåten Epos shut down in 2020. This upset many Norwegian citizens. However, the government hopes to find a solution that is more cost-effective, environmentally friendly and that can access more areas. The Bokbåten Epos could also serve as a model for other libraries committed to helping communities.

Zimbabwe’s Donkey-Drawn Libraries

A nonprofit called Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme (RLRDP) started a mobile library project to help provide more resources to Zimbabwe’s rural schools in 1990. These schools struggled to be acknowledged and receive the needed funding. These 15 mobile libraries can hold up to 1,000 books each. Additionally, four donkeys pull these books along to increase the distance the mobile libraries can travel.

These mobile libraries work with communities to tailor services to people’s needs, such as using bikes to deliver books or making more stops if there are elderly patrons or patrons with disabilities. Additionally, some of these carts have solar electricity and internet access that allow access to e-books and educational resources, as well as make it possible to hold movie events. These mobile libraries have helped nearly 1,600 people and have become an integral part of communities.

Many people who live in impoverished, rural areas do not have access to books or other services that libraries provide. These innovative libraries are focused on helping impoverished communities and have successfully helped thousands of people. Efforts like these around the world have the power to transform education in developing countries.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr