Poverty is a word that is thrown around a lot and is used in so many different contexts.  In fact, I wonder if we have become so numb to the word that we may be losing sight of what it actually is.

I’ve recently returned from working in Zambia where I was reminded very forcefully of what true poverty looks like. I visited a village that Outreach International has only just started partnering with, the community is called Muchinsh, located within the copperbelt area in the north of Zambia. I spent time with a particular family who shared about some of the hardships they have to endure, day in, day out.

This is what Florence and Dickson told me –

We have 10 children aged between 2 weeks (our recent baby) and 26 years. We have lived in Muchinshi all our life, it’s always been difficult for us but we struggle on.”

I asked them to talk about what they do for food, water, medical help and housing.

Food – “Our family can only eat whatever we grow on a small plot of land located a short way from our house. We have no other form of income so if we are unable to pick anything to eat from the land we go without food on that day. This happens a lot and we regularly go several days without any food at all.  When we do pick vegetables from the land it’s very rarely enough for the whole family to be fed so my husband and I have to decide who will eat that day. You can see my younger children crying a lot, it’s because they are so hungry.”

Water – “The only source of water for our family is a shallow well situated near to our field. The water is very dirty and the children regularly get sick from drinking it but we have no other choice. The nearest clean water well is a long way and none of us have the strength to carry the weight of water over that distance.”

Health – “Yes, we often get sick, especially the younger children, mainly due to malaria and dysentery. Our nearest clinic is several miles away and anyway, medicine costs too much money, we can’t afford it. We have lost a few children because they got so ill. Richard, our 3 year old son, couldn’t even walk because he was so malnourished.”

Housing – “There are 12 people living in our house, most of us have to sleep on the floor but we have a thin mattress for our youngest children. I really need to rebuild the house because the mud bricks are starting to wear away and soon it will all fall down. In the wet season we struggle to keep dry because our straw roof leaks too much. I can’t afford to buy good bricks so I have to make my own but I can’t spend time making them anyway, I really need to work in the field so that we can have some food.”

Food, water and housing are considered to be the basic necessities to life and this family struggled for all of them. Of course, this is just one family in the community, there are many more exactly like them.

Fortunately, the tide is starting to turn in Muchinshi since Outreach International has been involved. The community have been taught how to make a nutrient rich porridge out of rice, corn and beans, the most malnourished children are being fed this on a regular basis. Richard is one of them – since eating the porridge he can now walk! They are being taught how to effectively farm on their land and increase the amount of food available to them. They are learning how to negotiate with the local government to obtain boreholes for clean water. The process takes time but even in the couple of months Outreach International has partnered with Muchinshi, the improvements are definitely tangible.

At Outreach International we refuse to accept that poverty is just a part of life, we will be relentless in helping people like Florence and Dickson.  But we need your support!  Your contributions will help abolish poverty in places like Muchinshi – permanently.

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Words and Photos by Wayne Rowe – Outreach International Communications Team