While overall poverty has been on the decline in Zambia, urban poverty has actually been increasing. In the tough economic conditions of the capital city Lusaka, many parents struggle to provide for their children’s basic needs.
Children left to fend for themselves
Lusaka is the capital city of Zambia, the heart of its commerce and government, and one of the fastest developing cities in sub-Saharan Africa. Many rural Zambians migrate to the metropolis in pursuit of work but in spite of its reputation unemployment levels sit at over 60% and over 50% of Lusaka’s 2 million plus population live in poverty.
These socioeconomic conditions mean that a large proportion of families struggle to meet the basic needs of their children, with 50% of children lacking two sets of clothing, shoes and their own or even a shared blanket. Inflation and rising food prices mean malnutrition is common, with parents unable to ensure their children are sufficiently fed. Consequently more than half of children under five in Lusaka are smaller than their age appropriate height, a phenomenon known as stunting.
HIV/AIDS also severely affects the population of Zambia, and Lusaka in particular. While knowledge and awareness of the disease has improved in recent years, stigmatisation and discrimination remain common, and many people are therefore reluctant to be tested. HIV/AIDS has enormous consequences for children; almost a quarter of urban children have lost either one or both parents to the epidemic.
Young people need support to flourish
SOS Children is committed to helping children that have grown up in such challenging environments make a successful transition into adulthood. When young people growing up in SOS families feel ready to leave the family home in pursuit of vocational training or further education, they have the continued support of the SOS youth programme. Shared accommodation is available under the supervision of an SOS educator, who provides guidance as young people prepare for the responsibilities of independent life. The SOS vocational training centre in Lusaka provides courses for 160 students from around the country on metalwork, woodwork, construction, agriculture and tailoring.
What we do in Lusaka
SOS Children has been working in Lusaka since 1999. Our recently expanded community programme seeks to reach as many families as possible, alleviating hardship and helping maintain family stability to ensure children grow up in the safe and loving home.
SOS social centres in Lusaka and nearby in Chanzanga West provide nutritional services, healthcare and education to children, along with income generation and parenting guidance for their parents, and psychological support and counselling where necessary. In cooperation with local organisation we target HIV/AIDS impacted families in particular, and work towards strengthening social support systems within the community.
We also run the SOS medical centre, which provides up to 10,000 families a year with basic medical care, preventive medicine and voluntary testing and counselling for those affected by HIV/AIDS. These services are open to all, enabling many people on the community to receive treatment that would otherwise be unaffordable.
Children who are no longer able to live with their parents find loving homes with our SOS families. Affectionately cared for by their SOS mothers, and living alongside their SOS brothers and sisters, these children attend SOS nursery and SOS primary and secondary schools, ensuring a good level of education from a young age. The SOS schools are attended by almost 1,000 pupils from the surrounding region, so SOS children are able to integrate into the local community.
Our Children's Village in Lusaka is one of four locations across Zambia where we provide a loving home to children with no one else. For more than a decade and a half, we have been there for the most vulnerable children in Zambia's capital city.