Information on Zambia

Quick Facts * Health & Education Statistics * Country History * The Arrival of Refugees * Zambia Today


Quick Facts Top

  • Capital: Lusaka
  • Population: 11.5 million
  • Languages: Over 80, including English, Bemba, and Nyanga

Health & Education Statistics (source: BBC) Top

  • Infant Mortality: 93/1,000 deaths
  • HIV/AIDS Rate: 16%
  • Life Expectancy: m: 40, f: 40
  • Literacy Rate: m: 86%, f: 74%

Country History Top

Zambia has a population of approximately 11 million people from 72 ethnic groups. Following the influx of western missionaries in the 1800’s, substantial copper deposits were discovered and attracted British colonial influence in what became Northern Rhodesia. The British instituted their educational system and made the country a Protectorate in 1924. By 1963 the Federation was dissolved, and Zambia claimed its independence in 1964. Although the country was one of Africa’s richest due to the copper booms of the mid-20th century, the socialist-leaning government faced challenges stimulating economic growth after independence. The drop in copper prices in the 1980’s caused poverty to become more entrenched among Zambian citizens. An outstanding achievement of Zambia has been the ability to unite the seventy-two ethnic groups under one nation without violent conflict; Zambia has been one of the main places of refuge for those fleeing civil conflict in surrounding countries.


The Arrival of Refugees Top

While civil conflict has struck many African countries, Zambia’s relatively peaceful society provides a safe alternative for those fearful of war. Since the Angolan Civil War in the 1970’s, thousands of refugees have fled their home countries for Zambia, necessitating millions of dollars in aid to the region from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As a result of violent outbreaks, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Uganda, and Somalia have entered Zambia en masse.

Against two articles in the United Nations’ 1951 Geneva Convention, Zambia does not allow refugees freedom of employment and movement. Because of such regulations, many refugees found living outside camp grounds are imprisoned, have minimal access to proper representation, and have limited education and employment opportunities. Due to the extensive length of stay by refugees, much of the provision of aid and resources originally provided has dried up. Refugees have become further marginalized and left in a stagnant and largely hopeless situation.


Zambia Today Top

UNHCR is helping refugees go home as their countries become peaceful. At the same time, UNHCR and the Government of Zambia continue to search for solutions for families who are unwilling to return home for fear of persecution by looking for opportunities of integrating refugees into Zambian society.

In addition to caring for refugees, the Zambian Government is dealing with a dilapidated infrastructure, poor agricultural production, and corruption. HIV/AIDS is a serious concern, with nearly one fifth of Zambia’s population HIV-positive — 50% of whom are under fifteen. A shrinking labor force due to early AIDS-related deaths has caused economic growth to suffer. The local community-oriented culture maintains significant influence, which promotes strong family cohesion but can be counterproductive to economic development or saving and financial planning.