Fight Poverty in Zambia

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We live in a world riddled with poverty. This includes the country of Zambia, located in south-central Africa, where 54.4% of the country’s population – more than 9.4 million people – lives below the poverty line. With your support, Cross Catholic Outreach is partnering with the global Church to serve the suffering poor and provide long-term solutions to their life challenges.

Nearly 6 out of 10 Zambians survive on less than $2 a day.

Zambia had one of the strongest economies in sub-Saharan Africa for many years. This was primarily because of its profitable copper industry. However, the mining industry has become increasingly unstable, and the lack of Zambia’s economic diversity has more recently led to extreme income inequality. Zambia’s lack of jobs is compounded by the fact that its population is spread out, with three quarters of poor families living in rural areas. Access to safe water and proper sanitation have also become serious issues, and it has been reported that nearly 4 out of every 10 Zambians now have no access to clean water. Fortunately, through support of Church-based outreaches, we can have a major impact in these problem areas, lifting up the people of Zambia for the glory of Jesus Christ.

map of Zambia

Quick Facts

Population: 17,426,623

GDP per capita (PPP): $4,000 (2017 est.)

Literacy rate: 86.7% (95.5% in U.S.)

Infant mortality: 56 deaths / 1,000 live births

Population below poverty line: 54.4% (2015 est.) (15.1% in U.S.)

Primary religions: Protestant 75.3%, Roman Catholic 20.2%, other 2.7%

In Zambia, thousands of women and children travel great distances to collect their water from dirty riverbeds or unprotected hand-dug pits shared by cattle, dogs or wild animals.

Poverty in Zambia

The Struggle for Equality and Opportunity

A few years after independence in 1964, Zambia was one of the most prosperous nations in Africa. Unfortunately, its prosperity was almost entirely due to its rich deposits of copper found in the border region between northern Zambia and the southern Democratic Republic of Congo. When the bottom fell out of the copper industry, the advancements in Zambia’s economy fell with it. Today, the country is among one of the poorest nations in the world. Although it is still Africa’s second-largest copper producer, it ranks among the countries with highest level of income inequality globally.

Zambia is one of the most unequal countries in the world. In 2018, The World Bank estimated 149 countries on a scale of 0 to 100 in terms of income inequality. Zambia was ranked the fourth most unequal country in the world. More than half the country still lives below the national poverty line and most of the nation’s wealth remains in the hands of a small elite. The contrast between rich and poor is most evident in rural Zambia, where 80.5% of people live below the poverty line.

The food situation in Zambia is on the verge of a crisis. A recent report has said that Zambia is one step away from famine. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the 2018/2019 farming season in the southern half of Zambia experienced drought conditions that have resulted in significant crop losses and poor harvests. An estimated 2.3 million people, representing 25% of the rural population, are now in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.

The struggle for clean water and effective sanitation. Poor families in Zambia have little access municipal water systems. Instead, most rural villagers are forced to rely on shallow open wells, dirty trenches and unprotected hand-dug pits for their water and these are often infested with frogs and insect larvae. Poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are the main causes of infections like diarrhea, typhoid and dysentery — which weaken most and can even lead to fatalities among the elderly and young children.

A second and related problem for these rural villagers is poor sanitation. Few homes have access to toilets and outdoor defecation is common, which leads to infectious diseases. Families are also tempted to cook with dirty water, dry dishes without clean racks, and skip hand-washing because they lack easy access to clean abundant water.

Zambia’s high rate of child stunting is in part a result of poor sanitation. Research indicates that adequate sanitation can decrease the risk of stunting. In Zambian schools, lack of access to adequate water supply, sanitation and washing facilities negatively affects students and contributes to high dropout rates, especially among girls.

One way to reduce poverty is by helping to install clean water systems, empowering vulnerable populations, especially women and children.

The Answer to Zambia’s Poverty

The Church

Cross Catholic Outreach partners with local Catholic bishops, priests, sisters and lay workers who have the heart and knowledge to serve their needy neighbors.

Defeat Poverty and Bring People to Jesus Christ

Our goal is to not only provide food, water, shelter, medical care, education and other material needs, but also to transform families and, ultimately, entire communities. With your support, we can change lives in a miraculous way.

Providing Clean Water in the Diocese of Chipata, Zambia

This water project will do more than quench physical thirst. It will also address community needs by providing training in sanitation and hygiene. Most important, it will be an answer to prayers. A community water system is a tangible expression of God’s love for the poor and fosters peace as Catholic villagers and those of other denominations come together to share from the same well.

2,057 adults and 3,085 children will be impacted by constructing 15 hand-pump wells — one for each village — and will include troughs for animals and basins for washing clothes. Villagers will also be trained to construct pit latrines, dish drying racks, rubbish pits and hand-washing stations to reduce sanitation-related diseases.

With a heavy bucket of murky water perched on her head, Dorothy Lungu slowly makes her way home from the local water source. The journey is challenging, but Dorothy must make this backbreaking trek if her family is to have any water.

Like most of the poor families living in the Diocese of Chipata, Zambia, Dorothy’s family must commit the better part of a day to collecting water, and while the water source is plentiful — it is also contaminated.

Villagers like Dorothy know their water is contaminated, but they have no other options. As a result, they often suffer from diarrhea, typhoid and dysentery. A second and related problem for these rural villagers is poor sanitation. Few homes have access to toilets and outdoor defecation is common, which leads to infectious diseases.


Give a Gift That Will Change Lives

Impoverished families in Zambia need your compassion. Your gift to Cross Catholic Outreach will keep the light of Christ burning and will empower the Church in Zambia to serve the poor and needy in many important ways. Your gift can literally bring food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, shelter to the destitute and the peace of the Lord to the downtrodden.

Change Even More Lives

Giving monthly is a small way to have a big impact. Your regular support empowers our ministry to respond to urgent needs and fulfill our long-term projects across the world.

Become a monthly donor today and experience the joy of impacting lives every month.

Additional Resources

What are the causes of poverty in Zambia?

Poverty in Zambia is fueled by a diversity of factors: lack of economic diversity, droughts and climate instability, as well as high levels of unemployment. But to truly understand the causes of the poverty in Zambia, one has to acknowledge the role of history. A few years after independence in 1964, Zambia was one of the most prosperous nations in Africa due to its profitable copper mines. Unfortunately, the bottom fell out of the copper industry, and Zambia never fully recovered.

Is Zambia a poor country?

Today, Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Nearly 60% of the population live below the poverty line and 42% are classified as extremely poor. Poverty is the most severe in rural Zambia, where 80.5% of people live below the poverty line. In terms of distribution of wealth, Zambia is one of the most unequal nations in the world. Only three countries have a higher disparity between rich and poor.

What is the Zambian population below the poverty line?

Zambia has a population of 17.4 million, 54.4% of whom live below the poverty line. Certain qualities that those living in the United States consider basic, such as healthcare, education, clean water and sanitation, are luxuries for many living in Zambia.

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Cross Catholic Outreach

Our mission is to mobilize the global Catholic Church to transform the poor and their communities materially and spiritually for the glory of Jesus Christ. Your gift empowers us to serve the poorest of the poor by channeling life-changing aid through an international network of dioceses, parishes and Catholic missionaries. This cost-effective approach helps break the cycle of poverty and advance Catholic evangelization.

Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2022, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.