The poor are being pushed further into a poverty trap

Many associate poverty with sleeping on the streets; but what does it really mean to live in poverty in Zambia? And is it always easy to recognise?

The poverty line is based on a benchmark income estimated to support the basic needs of an individual or family. If a person’s available income is less than this amount, they are said to be living below the poverty line.

According JCTR, the basic needs and nutrition basket for the month of June 2020 stood at K7,060.80. And it has consistently been above K7,000 since January 2020. Yet it remains a sad reality that very few individuals in Zambia earn incomes close to this amount. It is evident that the poor with no income to keep themselves afloat will only be pushed further into a poverty trap.

Many Zambians live below the poverty line. That’s the great majority of our population who struggle to maintain a basic standard of living and cannot comfortably afford everyday expenses, such as food, running water, electricity and keeping a roof over their heads.

There is a feeling of worthlessness among many of our people. Most of them have nothing to show for the years they have worked but a pile of debts. Anxiety that didn’t go away; it was with them in bed, churning over in their mind how they would pay the next bill. They dread any knock on the door because they think ni ba nkongole.

There is never one ‘face’ of poverty. The impact on a family experiencing financial hardship varies greatly. For some, it means relationship breakdowns, emotional trauma, high stress levels, declining mental health or low self-esteem. But a family living in poverty is not always obvious. They may be compromising in one area of basic need in order to meet another, which is often seen. For example, a parent may be going without prescription medication in order to pay for a child’s school needs.

And poverty can remain hidden because of how confronting it can feel to tell friends and family, or how daunting it seems to call a charity.

You don’t discuss it with friends because it’s so embarrassing.

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