JCTR urges employers to help their workers to realise decent lives

THE Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection has revised the Basic Needs Basket to add an aspect of nutrition to it and the cost of living in Lusaka, as at July 31, 2019, stood at K5,979.57 for a family of five.

The K5, 979.57 is an aggregate for the costs of basic food items and essential non-food items.

Meanwhile, Ndola remains the city with the highest cost of living at K6,203.58 while Mongu town is the lowest at K3,609.08.

At the launch of the revised Basic Needs Basket (BNB) – now called Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket – at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lusaka on Thursday, Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) social and economic development manager Innocent Ndashe said the Basket was simply a tool for promoting social justice in society.

He reminded employers that with an increased cost of living, “they should be saying ‘how much should I be paying the person who is working for me?’”

“What employers should realise is that they are dealing with a human being and that person needs to survive. How can they help their employees to realise a decent life?” Ndashe said.

As justification for the revision of the outlook of the BNB, Ndashe said people should have dignified lives by accessing nutritious foods.

“One way in which people are supposed to live a dignified life is to ensure that they have adequate nutritious food. Statistics show that we still continue struggling with the aspect of malnutrition and also hunger,” he said.

“In terms of malnutrition, we are reported to be one of the 25 African countries with a high hunger and malnutrition. But there have also been other researches by institutions like the Food Agriculture Organisation, International Fund for Agricultural Development and World Food Programme with information that has ranked Zambia to having high levels of malnutrition.”

He highlighted that the revision of the BNB had seen sugar, fish and bread dropping from the Basket.

“But we’ve added a number of food items to the Basket and we’ve also made some changes to the quantities of what people consume so that they can have access to nutritious diets,” Ndashe indicated.

“In the old BNB, we’ve been collecting the price of Breakfast mealie-meal. But since we are trying to emphasise on the aspect of nutrition and since the brand that is recommended to contribute to that cause is roller meal, we’ve brought in roller meal instead of breakfast mealie. In terms of the quantities, it still remains the two bags per month for a family of five. In the previous Basket, we never had rice but there is now an addition of rice that households would need to consume.”

The other new additional basic food items are cassava flour, sweet potatoes, pounded groundnuts, chicken and fruits.

Ndashe added that the JCTR hopes the revision would be providing information to different stakeholders on the affordability and accessibility to nutritious foods.

“On the part of bread, the most recommended type of bread for a nutritious diet is the wheat bread which is rarely found on our markets. What we find is the white bread and light brown bread whose nutritional value is almost equal to none (zero),”

“So, in order for us to enhance our advocacy for nutrition, households will fall on other items to fit in the shoes of other items that have been removed. You have things like sweet potatoes, rice and in some cases, nshima, to consume in the morning if households are to afford a nutritious diet,” he explained.

Ndashe, in terms of the non-essential food items, said none of the items had been dropped, “except we’ve made additions.”

“People need some of the things that we hadn’t been highlighting. One of the things that we’ve been highlighting that people would need, for example, is jelly (Vaseline),” he noted.

“But the reality on the ground is that most of us use lotion. Our current Basket does not reflect toilet paper but that is essential and it has been added, together with sanitary towels.”

He then highlighted what the revision of the Basket meant, from the cost standpoint.

Ndashe underscored that the Basket that was produced in June 2019, “an average household of five people needed to spend K5, 286 – that is the total of the basic food items and the basic essential non-food items.”

“[But] with the new Basket, as at month-end of July 2019, a family of five needed to spend K5, 979.57. The cost for food, as at July 2019, a household needed to spend K2, 016.85 on basic food items compared to K1, 430.35 in June 2019, reflecting an increase, in the cost of food, of K586.50. It’s a little expensive but very good for our economy in terms of having a productive citizenry. If people eat nutritious food, you’ll have a productive citizenly,” Ndashe highlighted.

“In terms of essential non-food items, in the month of June 2019 a household needed to spend K3, 855.66. But with the addition of the other three items (toilet paper, sanitary towels and lotion) and other factors on the market, that amount increased to K3, 962.72 in July 2019. So, the K2, 016.85 cost for basic food items plus K3, 855.66 cost for essential non-food items gives us K5, 979.57 as the total cost of living for July 2019.’

He said on top of the costs for basic food items and essential non-food items, people had other additional costs for education, health and transport services.

Meanwhile, the Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) gave a comparison of last month’s costs of living across Zambia.

Lusaka was at K5, 979.57, Kasama at K3, 666.22, Mansa at K3, 991.28, Mongu at K3, 609.08, Ndola at K6, 203.58, Solwezi at K5, 133.97, Monze at K5, 699.81 and Chipata at K4, 740.55.

Others are Mpika at K4, 261.5, Luanshya at K4, 312.66, Kitwe at K4, 676.37, Kabwe at K5, 084.39, Livingstone at K4, 582.88, Choma at K4, 689.88 and Chinsali at K4, 583.11.

JCTR is a project of the Society of Jesus Zambia, which has been in existence since 1988.

The Centre engages in research and advocacy on key social issues like cost of living, social implications of debt, accessibility of healthcare and education and integrity of local democracy.

It puts up its findings in publications, workshops and conferences and media presentations.

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