Social situation Severe rural poverty

Even during the period of economic growth that lasted until 2014, the lives of Zambia's poor improved very little. More than half of the population lives on less than 1.90 US dollars a day; the situation is particularly severe in rural areas.

Children in Mongu, Zambia, return from fishing

Children in Mongu, Zambia, return from fishing

Children in Mongu, Zambia, return from fishing

Some 47 per cent of the population is classified as undernourished. Prevalence of child stunting stands at 40 per cent (source: 2019 Global Hunger Index (External link)) and child mortality at six per cent.

There are few other countries with such pronounced income disparities as Zambia, which has a Gini co-efficient of 57. What is more, any development progress achieved is cancelled out by the country’s rapid population growth (three per cent in 2017).

Zambia's economy is still overly dependent on copper, a sector that offers employment to comparatively few people. Structural reforms are needed in order to improve the business environment and expand the agricultural sector. Public authorities, especially at local level, lack the necessary skilled personnel and funds. On the latest United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), Zambia is ranked 146th out of 189 countries.

HIV/AIDS

The wide prevalence of HIV in Zambia is a huge issue; more than one in ten adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected. The epidemic cut average life expectancy to just 41 years in the late 1990s. The availability of antiretroviral therapy has since brought it back up to 62 years. Young people, however, are still at particular risk, as they are often not sufficiently well-informed about HIV and AIDS.

Women prepare food in a camp for Zambian fishermen.

Women prepare food in a camp for Zambian fishermen.

Women prepare food in a camp for Zambian fishermen.

The situation for women and girls

Women's social and legal position is still strongly dictated by tradition, in rural areas and also elsewhere. Although gender equality is enshrined in the constitution and is being demanded by an increasingly active women’s rights lobby, social change is slow in coming. Many girls leave school early because they are pregnant. Domestic and sexual violence against women is widespread and the government is undertaking insufficient efforts to combat violence and the oppression of women.