Household capacity and "coping up" in rural Zambia : dealing with AIDS, other illness and adversity in Chiawa
A synonym for "dealing with", "coping up" is a common Zambian expression in the 1990's' as households face pressing problems in the context of economic hardship and HIV/AIDS. Through the lens of seven rural households in Chiawa (a chieftaincy on the banks of the Zambezi River), this thesis explores the capacity of households to deal with a series of adversities and changes over a period of four years. The influence of locality and, at another level, national trends are taken into account, but the focus is on how and how well each household has coped in the face of four separate adverse events, a dysentery epidemic, a drought, the introduction of fees in government health facilities and schools, and the terminal illness and untimely death of a young adult. The capacity of households to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic is then examined.Overall the households differ in their capacity to deal with these events, but, though each event demands particular responses, resources and strategies, the pattern that emerges is, with the important exception of HIV/AIDS, consistent. Leaving the latter aside, it is possible to rank the households along a scale of high to low capability, to reveal how some households slide up and down the scale over time, and to tease out which resources determine coping well and coping badly in a Chiawa context.HIV/AIDS however, is unlike other adversities. Households ranked as the most capable in relation to the other events are not necessarily able to protect themselves against HIV infection - indeed it is sometimes their relative success in other spheres that puts them at particular risk. The thesis concludes that even 'high capability' households have yet to adapt to the presence of HIV/AIDS in their community, and to develop support systems to prevent its further spread.A parallel theme in the thesis is the capacity of anthropology and anthropologists to conduct research which is ethically sensitive and can usefully be applied to HIV/AIDS interventions.