Zambia: Catholic lobby urges new government to fight poverty

 As Zambia prepares to elect a new president, following the death of Levy Mwanawasa last month, a Catholic civil society organization has called on the next government to make poverty eradication its chief priority.

Elections to pick Mwanawasa's successor are expected in November. The President died at the age of 59 on August 19 in France.

The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR) said though the country made economic progress under president Mwanawasa, hunger and poverty are widespread.

"Indeed, the late President Mwanawasa has left a legacy upon which further economic progress can be made. It is, however, imperative to highlight that while Zambia has recorded economic progress, this has hardly translated into the expected benefit at the household level," the assistant coordinator of JCTR, Miniva Chibuye, said.

The high poverty levels averaging 62 per cent nationally indicate the extent of hardships currently being experienced by households in accessing basic needs, Chibuye said, according to the Times of Zambia newspaper.

According to JCTR's 'Basic Needs Basket' that measures the cost of living for a family of six in Lusaka and other towns, trends of cost of living continue to show an increase, Chibuye said.

She said in relation to the 'Rural Basket' conducted in Malama area in Eastern Province, Matushi in North-Western Province and Masaiti on the Copperbelt Province, the information indicated that most households in Zambia were facing serious difficulties in accessing food needs and meeting nutritional requirements.

Chibuye said the hardships were much more in rural areas as seen by the higher poverty levels, which had 80 per cent than urban areas, which had 34 per cent, and attributed the scenario to inequitable distribution of resources.

She said investments in rural infrastructure, alternative sources of energy, health and education, agriculture and employment creation must certainly be accelerated as demonstration of building upon the legacy of late President Mwanawasa to improve the lives of all Zambians, especially the poor.

Chibuye said the current double digit inflationary levels propelled by the increase in food and energy prices also risk increasing the already high poverty levels to unprecedented degrees.

Source: CISA

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