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.
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.
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