Lusaka was born at the beginning of the nineteenth century as a small village which took its name from its headman. It developed quite slowly, but in 1935 was chosen to replace Livingstone as capital of the Biritish colony of Northern Rodeshia.
The reason was its location in the southern part of the central plateau of the country, where the main ways of comunication –like the railway, the Great North road and the Great East road- meet. In 1960 Lusaka acquired officially the status of city and in 1964 it became the capital of the newly independent Zambia.
Recently, Lusaka has been one of the african cities with the highest rate of growth in terms of population. Now it provides homes for about two and a half million people*, but some more recent estimates says the capital inhabitants could be 3.1 million (roughly one third of the whole country population which is around 12 millions).
Most of them do not live in the developed centre of the town, but in the townships that sorround it: the compounds. These are areas where Zambians who move from all over the country find a place to build their unplanned settlements.
Living conditions are difficult here, sometimes dreadful. In most of the compounds, road network is terrible, water and sanitation conditions are poor and basic services like formal education and health facilities are hardly accessable. Other social related problems include high unemployment levels, health diseases (the most widespread are HIV/AIDS and cholera which is particularly high during the rainy season) and addiction to substance abuse – especially alcohol and marijuana.
These issues do not affect only the whole community, but also go deep to its grassroots. The traditional insitution of the extended family is decreasing fast and, consequently, phenomenon like street kids and childheaded houses are widespread in Lusaka’s compounds. Moreover, episodes of domestic violence occur with a higher frequency than in other areas of the city.
Also, even though there are some differences of life standards and incomes within the compounds there most of the families that live in these areas struggle to make the ends meet because of the disproportion between low salaries and high expenses especially for food, transportation and education.
Most of The Big Issue vendors come from the compounds
of Misisi, Kanyama and Chawama, in the South-Western part of Lusaka.
They lease their housing from there
and trudge everyday to the city centre to sell the magazine.