I had the privilege last month of traveling with World Vision to the district of Sinazongwe, Zambia, where rolling hills covered in acacia, cacti, and fruit trees look remarkably like parts of Southern California. But tucked among them are mud brick huts with thatched roofs, small vegetable gardens by muddy pools, and high racks where cobs of maize dry beyond the reach of animals. We pass a small roadside market, where women sell tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and stalks of sugar cane beside a banana grove.
The statistics of this region belie the bucolic scene. Malaria plagues a quarter of children under 5, often fatally, and affects 9 percent of the overall population, according to Rose Zambezi, World Vision's technical adviser for health. HIV and AIDS persist, too, affecting 14 percent of Zambians. As a children’s book author, I’m especially interested in these statistics as I’m working on a story about an African family that strives to create a “healthy village.”