We’ve just completed our second week in Zambia. It was another busy week of running all over town to meetings, very similar to the previous week. We’ve had great meetings, encountered very helpful people, and the study is moving along well.
Unique to this week however, Thursday was Zambian Independence Day. The independent, democratic nation of Zambia is officially 49 years old! Given that, I thought it appropriate at this point to take a few paragraphs to share a bit about Zambia. Of all the nations in the world that have high malnutrition rates, why Zambia?
Zambia is an amazing country of great contrasts. It embodies the National Geographic images that many think of when they hear ‘Africa’… the beautiful wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. Zambia also boasts the northern side of the Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world. If you’re looking for a truly unforgettable vacation, I highly recommend Victoria Falls, including white water rafting down the Zambezi River (my all-time favorite adrenaline activity in the world thus far, which I did several times while living in Zimbabwe).
In addition to the natural beauty of Zambia, it is one of the most stable democracies on the continent, having completed its 6th peaceful election and transition of power in 2011. A nation of 14 million people, in a land area slightly larger than Texas, Zambia is ‘land-linked’ to seven other countries. It is becoming an economic hub of the region, with 6.5% GDP growth. The World Bank has even changed its designation from a low-income to a middle-income country. The official language is English, however Zambia is comprised of 72 tribes (and as many languages), all living together peacefully.
For all the wonderful things about Zambia, it has its challenges. Despite the economic growth, the majority of Zambians live on less than $2 a day. (That wouldn’t cover the daily coffee budget for most Americans.) This level of extreme poverty contributes to a myriad of issues and is one of the key contributing factors to the high levels of malnutrition. 45% of the nation’s 2.1 million children under the age of five are stunted as a result of moderate malnutrition. It is estimated that an additional 105,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Of these, only 20% are receiving the treatment they need. That’s 84,000 severely malnourished children that are NOT currently receiving any type of assistance each year.
The government of Zambia and many international donors and aid agencies have made it a top priority to tackle the dismal nutrition situation, but there is still a need for increased investment to address the scale of the problem. This enabling environment is a very conducive setting for Every Child Fed to make a long-lasting impact and reach those children that are suffering and dying in silence.
Our feasibility study has yet to be concluded, but it is painfully clear…