- An independent United Nations human rights expert has called on the Zambian government to make good on its promises to reduce the deep poverty in the Southern African nation.
“Effectively addressing extreme poverty in Zambia requires moving from rhetoric to action,” said Magdalena Sepúlveda, the UN Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty.
“Zambia is a country rich in natural resources that experienced significant economic growth in the last eight years,” but she stressed it “was appalling to see the persistence of extreme poverty in different regions of the country.”
After eight days of visiting communities in the landlocked country, Ms Sepúlveda told reporters in the capital, Lusaka, on Friday that the “Government has made clear commitments and outlined important plans to change this situation, but words must be translated into more actions.”
During her trip she said she has learned first-hand about the daily struggle for survival by people living in extremely difficult conditions, visiting communities living in poverty in Chipata, Chirundu, Katete and Lusaka, as well as meeting with various government authorities, international organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Ms Sepúlveda stressed that access to “health, housing, education and social security are all universal human rights that must be incorporated into the [national] Bill of Rights,” adding that poverty will not be reduced until poor people are at the centre of national policies and resources are set aside for social protection. “The extremely poor must be the number one priority of the State budget.”
She also highlighted the successful impact of pilot social programmes in urban and rural communities that allot funds to households unable to take part in income-generating activities.
“Without social cash transfers, older people, women and children would be virtually abandoned to their fate,” said Ms Sepúlveda. “I was extremely pleased to hear that the Government has decided to scale-up these programmes.”
Ms Sepúlveda was appointed UN Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty in May 2008, and reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in an unpaid capacity. She will present a report describing her main findings and providing recommendations to the Council in June 2010.
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