By Meluse Kapatamoyo
Zambia is currently carrying out the Living Conditions Monitoring Survey V1 2010 (LCMS), Central Statistical Office (CSO) director, Efreda Chulu has confirmed.
The nationwide survey, which started in February and ends this month, March 2010, is covering both rural and urban areas in all the 72 districts of Zambia.
Chulu said the main objectives of the LCMS include; monitoring the effects of the various government policies on the wellbeing of households and individuals, monitoring poverty levels and the severity of poverty, to highlight vulnerable groups in society who can be targeted using policy action by government, and to monitor changes in the living conditions of the population over time.
“The topics being covered in the survey (LCMS VI) are demography and migration, orphanhood, health, economic activities, income, household amenities and housing conditions, household access to facilities, agricultural production, household expenditure, community developmental issues, health and nutrition, deaths in households, self-assessed poverty, shocks to household welfare and household coping strategies,” said Chulu.
She said these would be the basis for computing poverty and living conditions in Zambia and the results of the surveys would provide reliable information on living conditions against which to monitor development.
The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) monthly Basic Needs Basket (BNB), an effort by the organisation to measure the cost of living for a family of six in 10 of Zambia’s towns, “has consistently shown nominal increases in both food and non-essential food items.”
For instance, the nominal cost of food in January 2008 was K596, 000 and increased to K656, 600 in December 2008. In January 2009, an upward adjustment was recorded to the tune of K761, 550 and significantly increased to K842, 400.
The most recent BNB survey for the month of February 2010 in the capital, Lusaka, showed yet another increase in the cost of food now averaging K860, 250. When costs for some essential non-food items such as housing, energy and water are added, the overall cost of living for the month of February increased to K2, 713, 580 from K2, 696, 030 in January.
According to Miniva Chibuye, coordinator of the social Conditions Programme , JCTR’s qualitative high density area research shows the increasing inability on the part of the majority of Zambians to have access to proper to housing, quality health services, education, clean water and sanitation and, most significantly, adequately balanced diets.
“The JCTR through its work on the urban BNB and the Rural Basket has noticed a strong correlation between the affordability of food items in rural areas. It is important to bring this assertion to the fore when drawing up these strategies that respond to food security in the country.”
To address this, she said two-pronged approaches needed to be instituted to respond to the challenge. One was the need to increase the production of food and improve storage and distribution and respond to issues of availability and accessibility, especially in rural areas.
“Secondly, to respond to the high cost of living in urban areas, the government should provide a suitable environment for households to have adequate income. In this regard, national development strategies should live up to their promise of creating employment.”