The Umkhanyakude District is one of 11 District Municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. Spanning an area of 13,000 square kilometers, it has a population of 575,000. Umkhanyakude is the poorest and most rural of the 11 KwaZulu Natal districts, and one of the poorest and most rural areas within South Africa.
While South Africa as a whole has experienced rapid economic growth since the arrival of democracy in 1994, rural areas such as Umkhanyakude have lagged behind. For example, in Umkhanyakude:
- 98% of persons live in rural homesteads
- 77% of persons live below the poverty line
- Adult unemployment is 67%
- Per capita income is less than 1/3 of the national average.
While many areas of South Africa, especially urban areas, resemble middle class areas in Europe and North America, the profile of the Umkhanyakude District is closer to that of the rest of Africa:
- Only 10% of households are within 15 minutes’ travel time of a health clinic,
- only 22% have access to safe water, and
- only 19% have access to use of electricity for lighting.
These are the lowest percentages of any District in KwaZulu-Natal province. Not surprisingly, the District has the lowest score of any KwaZulu Natal district on the United Nation’s Human Development Index.