Letter to the Editor

Let us treat overpopulation in Lusaka as a crisis

Dear editor,
LAST week, I ventured into  Lusaka’s central business district (CBD), particularly on Freedom Way. I made the fatal error of entering the road from the southend – big mistake! This is a no-go area now – don’t drive through that section of the road.
The southend has now become clogged by minibuses jostling for space. It is almost impassable. So after a lot of patience and determination, I came through and arrived at the northend. The CBD is as busy as ever. Covid-19 threat is not an issue here; survival is the issue.
I did a rough demographic survey. Yes, young people form the majority of our population. Lusaka needs redemption urgently. It is as if the entire population has crammed into this small space. We are in dire straits, and unless we treat the city’s overpopulation as a crisis, we will have a rude awakening one day.
The socio-economic impact of Covid-19 measures will be felt more in already fragile sub-Saharan economies than in the developed economies of the West.
In Zambia, more than 60 percent of the population live below the poverty line – they live below the international poverty line of US$1.90 per day. The majority of Zambians are young, aged below 35 years. Approximately 80 percent of the population is below 35.
The majority of this young population live in the urban areas, with Lusaka and the Copperbelt accounting for 2.7 million and 2.67 million respectively (CSO population projections, 2011-2035). Lusaka city alone has a population that is more than the entire Copperbelt Province combined.
Any response to the coronavirus has to therefore take these metrics and demographics into context. A lockdown is out of question because the majority of these Zambians in the urban areas live in the high density areas where they leave home every day to make money.
They are employed or self-employed in the informal sector with zero savings. This is the grim reality and backdrop to the fight against the coronavirus in Zambia. Other Covid-19 measures such as social distancing, sanitisation and wearing face masks can work. Stay home, however, cannot work for reasons stated above – money for food is made on a daily basis.


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