Zambia is a country of young people, with the majority of the population under the age of 18 (53.4 per cent). 

Many of these children are affected by both monetary and non-monetary poverty - an estimated 54.5 per cent of the population lives below the national poverty line. In Zambia, 40.9 per cent of children suffer from at least three deprivations or more (e.g. lacking access to nutrition, education, health, water, sanitation, adequate housing). 

The situation is further compounded by high population growth, with a fertility rate of 4.7 children per woman leading to an annual population growth rate of 3.2 per cent.


Even though Zambia was reclassified as a middle-income country in 2013, the Living Conditions Monitoring Survey Report (2015) revealed that the proportion of households living below the poverty line had decreased only marginally since 2010. The shift to middle-income status has also led to a downsizing of development programmes, threatening interventions targeted at the most vulnerable women and children.
While poverty rates have been declining, albeit slowly, data suggest that there are more children living in poverty today, than in 2013. Income inequality is increasing and largely impacts rural households, which have larger numbers of children per family.


Zambia has community schools, which are free, based in poor areas and shanty towns, aimed at primary school education and largely run by volunteers, and until recently fee paying government schools for secondary school education. The government abolished fees in January 2022, this has led to high levels of attendance and re-attendance across both community and government schools. Without fees to support them schools are struggling for resources such as; equipment, maintenance, books, desks, uniforms, shoes and even teachers.

 Zambia has made significant progress in the education sector since 2000. Enrolment in primary education reached 3.3 million in 2017, up from 1.6 million in 2000. Girls are now enrolling in primary school in the same numbers as boys. But there are an estimated 800,000 school-aged children that are out of school. Access to early childhood education is low with only 26 per cent of children entering Grade 1 with any such experience.


HIV prevalence has decreased from 13.3 per cent in 2014 to 11.1 per cent in 2018. A high proportion (over 90 per cent) of pregnant women are receiving HIV testing and counselling. The prevalence of stunting among children under five remains high at 35 per cent, and is higher in rural (36 per cent) as compared to urban areas (32 per cent).

Gender based violence:

Reports of gender-based violence are up 80% in four years, and Covid lockdowns have made it worse. But prosecutions are down. Many women don’t pursue their case for fear of reprisals, financial ruin and lack of support.  

Approximately 1 in 3 females and 2 in 5 males between 18-24 years experienced physical violence prior to the age of 18, and 20 per cent of males and 16 per cent of females reported experiencing emotional violence.

Child marriage:

With 29 per cent of women aged 20-24 married before the age of 18, Zambia has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Africa. In 2014, the Government commissioned a study through UNICEF on the dynamics leading to child marriage. The findings indicate that child marriage in Zambia is often a union of peers and a reflection of deep social and economic inequalities.

Credit: UNICEF - Zambia

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