The International Food Policy Research Institute has revealed that half of Zambia’s population is undernourished.
“Of the countries for which scores could be calculated, the top 10 countries with the highest level of hunger are Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Zambia, Yemen, Sudan, Liberia, Niger and Timor-Leste,” states the International Food Policy Research Institute.
With all the good soils, abundant water and good climate, why should half of our country’s population be undernourished? And all this is happening in the midst of unbridled corruption – misappropriation, misapplication, misuse, mismanagement of public funds – among and by key leaders of the country. Look at the extravagance of the key leadership of our country! Look at the number of very expensive automobiles the government has been buying! Forty-two fire tenders at a million dollars each! Fifty hardtop Toyota Land Cruiser ambulances at $288,000 each! Endless presidential foreign travel costing millions of dollars! The total failure of our agricultural policies to achieve the basic and essential objective of supplying all our people with enough food to develop their potentialities for enjoying a full life is today more evident than ever.
Clearly, for half of Zambia’s population, undernourishment is not a mere conceptual reference, but rather a tragic daily experience, a disgraceful reality for all of us. It is a secular, permanent condition of their precarious life. For them, the economic growth that is being bragged about has almost no meaning since it is not able to prevent the presence of undernourishment in their communities. The painful truth is that, despite the goals to eradicate it, hunger persists and tends to grow. The existence of such a high number of undernourished people in our country constitutes an affront to all of us. A stable, permanent solution must be found for this serious problem.
Children are the most visible victims of undernutrition. Undernutrition in the aggregate – including fetal growth restriction, stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc along with suboptimum breastfeeding – is a cause of many child deaths in this country. It’s difficult to understand, let alone accept, why fifty per cent of the people in this country should not have enough food to lead a healthy active life.
Many primary school-age children in this country attend classes hungry. Hunger, poverty and food prices are inextricably linked. Many of our people live with hunger and malnourishment because they simply cannot afford to buy enough food, cannot afford nutritious foods or cannot afford the farming supplies they need to grow enough good food of their own. Hunger is a perilous cycle that passes from one generation to the next: families which struggle with chronic hunger and malnutrition consistently go without the nutrients their minds and bodies need, which then prevents them from being able to work, go to school, or improve their lives.
Breaking the cycle of poverty and building strong communities begins when every person has enough nutritious food to live a healthy and productive life.
People suffering from chronic hunger are plagued with recurring illnesses, developmental disabilities and low productivity. They are often forced to use all their limited physical and financial resources just to put food on the table.
People living in poverty struggle to afford safe, nutritious food to feed themselves and their families. As they grow hungrier, they become weak, prone to illness and less productive, making it difficult to work. If they’re farmers, they can’t afford the tools, seeds and fertilizer they need to increase their production, let alone have the strength to perform the laborious work. The limited income also means they often can’t afford to send their children to school or they pull them out to work to help support the family. Even if children are lucky enough to go to class, their malnourishment prevents them from learning to their fullest.
Lack of education prevents better job opportunities in the future, confining yet another generation to the same life of poverty and hunger. Long-term malnourishment has serious health implications that will keep children from reaching their full potential.
Malnutrition causes stunting – when the body fails to fully develop physically and mentally – and increases a child’s risk of death and lifelong illness. A child who is chronically hungry cannot grow or learn to their full ability. In short, hunger steals away their future.