Preparing For the Worst

Disaster Management in Zambia


This paper explains the problems that Zambia goes through in the area of disaster management. In section two, different problems have been looked at in terms of poverty, politics, floods, water and sanitation problems, corruption and HIV/AIDS. The last chapter suggests how best the Government of the Republic of Zambia, Non Governmental Organisation and all the relevant stakeholders can be integrated in disaster management mitigation programmes. Conclusion has been made in which the paper strongly recommends networking as the key to successful mitigation of disaster cases in Zambia.


Poverty is a cause and effect of disasters. In Zambia, poverty is so severe and widespread that it is difficult to discriminate between disaster victims and the chronically poor. According to the latest census, in 2006, between 70% and 85% of Zambia’s ten million people live on less than a dollar a day. Nearly three-quarters of the country’s children live below the poverty line. This widespread poverty poses special challenges for targeting humanitarian aid, and marshalling community support among very poor people. It is not uncommon in Zambia for food to be redirected from victims of disaster to the equally needy people charged with administering relief. This has undermined the confidence of donors, who have imposed unachievable conditionality and rules on aid in a bid to curb pilfering. Such conditions only hurt disaster victims.


As touched on above, humanitarian assistance is heavily politicized. The government chooses which events are declared disasters. Stated criteria are of no use: political expedience is all that counts. Elections in particular can be crucial in determining who gets relief, and when. Religious groups also play the influence game, seizing the opportunities humanitarian response offers not only to access donor funding (a major motivation) but also to win disciples for their institutions. Benevolence is a tool of religious influence, especially when it is practiced on a mass scale.

Floods, water and sanitation problems

Floods, water and sanitation problems especially during rain season have been disastrous in Zambia ‘s situation. Over the past three months Zambia was subjected to incessant heavy rains, causing extensive damage and disruptions of life to several districts. Times of Zambia website reported that; ” The Zambia red cross society (ZRCS) in January 2008 responded to a situation concerning a dispute over farm ownership that left 701 families displaced in Zambia with financial support from the southern Africa Regional Declaration, the rains left many people homelessly, destroyed crops, and personal belongings, washed away bridges and contaminated water sources.” As it can be seen from the above report by the Times of Zambia, floods can be disastrous too just as poverty , HIV/AIDS, cholera and other disasters mentioned in this paper.


Corruption and bribery are a huge, albeit unacknowledged, cause of ineffectiveness and inefficiency in humanitarian response in Zambia. Of course, there are some genuine NGOs and faith-based organizations, and government policy and the operations manual have recognized the capacity of NGOs and the private sector to do a fair job. But watchdog and security institutions become compromised and irrelevant in the face of corruption. In the Zambian disaster response, community and political leaders short-change the people of what rightly belongs to them. Corruption in the humanitarian business takes place at all levels. The loser is the disaster victim, who cannot pay for eligibility, and very few genuine disaster victims can offer anything as a bribe. Thus, genuine disaster victims usually do not benefit as much as they deserve to from humanitarian assistance, which itself is becoming difficult to come by.


HIV/AIDS is a huge disaster, with cross-cutting effects on individuals, households and communities. Its economic repercussions include loss of employment, loss of productive capacity, high expenditure on treatment for sick family members and the loss of family property or savings through death. For those dependent on subsistence agriculture, there is an urgent need to increase cash income to pay for the extra commodities needed to care for victims. Children are the worst-hit: HIV/AIDS accounts for three-quarters of Zambia’s one million-plus orphans. Looking after these orphans is a daunting challenge to Zambia’s humanitarian response capacity. Although HIV prevention campaigns are part of health education programmes, Zambian society is still extremely patriarchal, and the limited control women have over sex matters means that efforts to reduce rates of HIV transmission have had only limited success. The role and status of women need to be revolutionized if these campaigns are to be effective. The government’s Disaster Management Unit has developed no mechanism to tackle issues of HIV/AIDS, and neither government policy nor the Operations Manual offer clear guidance on HIV/AIDS and gender concern           ( Mupukwa Kabaso: 2007)

Opportunities for Zambia

In the face of these huge challenges, Zambia can and has made progress in reducing vulnerability in certain sectors. NGOs such as Care, World Vision and Oxfam have delivered a range of services, including water and sanitation, seed multiplication projects, food preservation, livelihood diversification and income-broadening projects. These have had significant impacts on the vulnerability of potential disaster victims, especially in rural communities. One can only imagine how much can be achieved if government departments did the same. The government’s ineffectiveness is compounded by high levels of turnover among staff due to poor conditions of employment and mortality and morbidity from HIV/AIDS. One of the missing links in the whole humanitarian equation of Zambia is the low level of expertise among government operatives, undermining the quality of humanitarian service that government departments can offer.

The enforcement of anti-corruption regulations needs to be given priority in humanitarian programmes. Coupled with this, there should be public education on corruption. Campaigns against corruption should be treated as a vulnerability reduction activity in themselves. Corruption reduces the effectiveness of all services targeted at the poor, and as such is a major factor in high levels of vulnerability in Zambia.

In terms of HIV/AIDS, a lot has been achieved in raising public awareness of the disease. The majority of Zambians are aware of HIV prevention measures. However, the patriarchal nature of gender relations means that women are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and HIV infection. Very strong gender development programmes need to be carried out alongside HIV/AIDS prevention measures. As long as women are economically dependent on men, and men are inclined to exploit women’s economic weakness, HIV/AIDS is likely to remain an economic and humanitarian obstacle in Zambia. Again, this means training of all those in the humanitarian business in gender development and women’s empowerment. Training people at various levels in best practice in humanitarian response will enhance capacity and effectiveness in Zambia. IT is a widely held view that accidents are caused and do not just happen. However, one would argue that it is all situational – depending on which side of an accident one found himself.

For example, in the case of a cyclist who has been hit by a motor vehicle and it is proved that the driver was wrong; would the victim say he has caused or the accident has happened to him?

Such a situation is certainly thought-provoking and could be debated on. In the end however, what would be needed is to take a step to alleviate the suffering of the victim of the accident and, if possible, put in place measures to prevent a similar occurrence in future.

Now take, for example, a flood, an earthquake, volcano or a tsunami. These are disasters purely caused by the forces of nature and, hence, they do not need to be debated on to ascertain who is responsible for them, although modern technology can only determine how they happen.

But one sure thing is that such natural calamities have almost always left behind victims who need aid of one type or another.

According  to Muyunda (2008; 120 “The assistance needed to help victims of either a natural calamity or an accident caused by man or which happened to man depends on the extent of the damage both to human beings, the environment or property. “

However, some disasters that require the intervention of the Zambia Red Cross Society (ZRCS) were caused by man either through war or other activities.

Take for example, the reason that led to the founding of the International Red Crescent of the Red Cross by Henry Dunnant, a Swiss businessman. He abandoned his mission to assist thousands of wounded soldiers in a day-long battle between the Imperial Austria and the French near the northern Italian village of Solferino in 1859.

Unlike disasters caused by man, natural disasters and calamities have for a long time proved to have far-reaching consequences.

For that reason alone, both the Government and humanitarian-based organisations have the mandate to put in place contingency measures to mitigate effects of such disasters and calamities.

In Zambia, the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) under the Office of the Vice-President is responsible for ensuring that victims of disasters are taken care of by giving the necessary aid.

Similarly, the Zambia Red Cross Society (ZRCS), has partnered with Government to give aid in times of need.

Being the largest humanitarian-based organization, the ZRSC has risen to the challenge to alleviate the suffering of disaster-struck people.

In some cases, the organization has managed to reach areas where Government was unable to, which has made it one of the most proactive and admirable humanitarian organizations in Zambia.

But like any other organization, private or public, the ZRCS faces a great deal of operational difficulties in its quest to help disaster victims.


In conclusion, it can be said that, disasters are as old as mankind on earth are as different in nature as the people on it. They may be natural, like those induced by hazards such as droughts, earth quakes, and volcanoes or human induced. Like many other countries Zambia has had her shares of disasters. In Zambia, HIV/AIDS, poverty, corruption and floods are rated to be on an increase. In the midst of these challenges collaboration and networking among stake holders are said to be the key to disaster mitigation.


  1. Mupukwa S. Kabaso (2007) Disaster Management Response and challenges for Zambia. Kabwe, KB Association Africa, Zambia.
  2. Muyunda Lifuna (2008) It’s 40 years on with Zambia Red cross society, Lusaka, Times of Zambia, Zambia.

Zimba Wilson, (2006) Managing humanitarian programmes in least-developed countries: the case of Zambia, Kabwe, Mulungushi University, Disaster Management Training Centre, Zambia

Source by kabaso sydney Mupukwa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Ultimate Prepper’s Survival

Survival Secrets Every Prepper Should Know

CLICK HERE for details