Poverty & Healthcare

One in eight adults have HIV/AIDS

With around one in eight adults in Zambia living with HIV/AIDS, the country has been one of the worst-affected by the epidemic.

The terrible toll taken by AIDS

HIV/AIDS kills around 50,000 Zambians each year and has left around 700,000 orphans.

Early deaths have deprived Zambia of skilled workers and created a growing number of orphaned children.

Malnutrition from poverty

Malnutrition, caused by endemic poverty, is widespread in the country, particularly in rural areas. Many families rely on subsistence farming and smallholders are being encouraged to use new crop varieties and farming techniques to increase harvests – see Climate & Agriculture.

Nearly half of all children under five are stunted, while 15% are severely malnourished and underweight (WHO 2000–2009).

For every 1,000 live births, 140 children will die in Zambia before they reach five years of age, according to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2009).

Resurgence of malaria

Net protection

Supported by the WHO and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, there has been a huge programme to distribute mosquito nets in the last five years. Mosquito nets are owned by two-thirds of households (though they are not always used).

Malaria is an additional problem in Zambia, where 3 million cases were reported in 2009 (WHO). Over the last decade, measures have been taken to reduce infections, including indoor spraying and the dissemination of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

But despite a reduction in cases since 2000, malaria is proving hard to control and there has recently been a resurgence in some areas.

A woman lying sick in bedDoctors at a premium

Considerable investment was made in the healthcare system following independence. Zambia has a number of general and smaller hospitals (some of them missionary-run) in towns, as well as a network of rural health centres.

A policy of free healthcare was adopted in the late 1970s, although services today suffer from a severe shortage of doctors and specialist staff.

According to the WHO there were only 650 doctors working in Zambia between 2000–2010 (less than one doctor for every 10,000 people).