Overview - Programming to Realise Children's Rights


Message from Dr. Hamid El Bashir Ibrahim - UNICEF Zambia Representative

unicef, zambia, country representative
© UNICEF Zambia - 2013/Maseko
Dr. Hamid El Bashir Ibrahim, UNICEF Zambia Representative

Welcome to UNICEF Zambia’s Website. We value your support so much – whether it is supporting the Government’s Child Health Weeks, being a “U-Reporter,” supporting our campaigns like “Brothers for Life,” or even just taking the time to follow our work through this portal or on our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube platforms.

Zambia is still far from reaching the Millennium Development Goal for water and sanitation. Only 43% of Zambians have access to an improved sanitation facility and 2.3 million Zambians still practice open defecation – mainly in rural areas. A strong inequity also continues to exist in the country in accessing safe water and improved sanitation between the poorest and richest population quintiles.

The lack of access in Zambia to improved sanitation and inadequate levels of washing hands with soap or ash contributes to the high prevalence of diarrhoea among children under five. The most recent data indicates that 6,600 children die every year due to poor sanitation and hygiene. Further, there is a growing evidence of the impact of poor hygiene and sanitation as being a nutrition crisis as faecaly transmitted infections – including diarrhoea - affect a child’s ability to absorb nutrients. Inadequate nutrition affects children’s cognitive skills, thus hindering their capacity to learn in school and ultimately not achieving their full potential.

With these factors, the World Bank reports that Zambia’s low sanitation practices cost Zambia 1.3% of its gross domestic product every year, or approximately US$194 million.

Despite these threats to Zambia’s children, and its future, real progress is being made under the leadership of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing (MLGH) with the support of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and UNICEF.  Our two organizations are supporting an ambitious national hygiene and sanitation programme that is striving to enable 3 million people in 47 rural districts to use improved household toilets and practice hand-washing with soap or ash. The programme is a component of the Government’s National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme.



girl drawing water from a school borehole
© UNCG Zambia/2012-Smith
A girl draws water from the school bore hole at the Mayukwayukwa Refugee Camp in Western province

The programme has achieved the following since 2012:

·         Sanitation Access – 1,100,000 people in 3,900 villages are now living with toilets and use them regularly;

·         An estimated 3,300,000 people have been reached with hygiene promotion information;

·         More than 1,000 schools have improved sanitation and hygiene facilities, benefiting more than 400,000 pupils every year.

On a recent visit I made to Southern Province with Kevin Quinlan, Head of DFID Zambia, His Royal Highness Chief Chona shared with us that patient lists at his chiefdom’s clinics are down significantly since his subjects became open defecation free (ODF) – meaning every household has a toilet and people no longer  defecate outside. This evidence supplements a recent estimate carried out by DFID and UNICEF that demonstrates the health benefits of this Zambia programme produce a benefit cost ratio of 203%. Every kwacha invested in hygiene and sanitation provides a benefit value of more than 2 kwacha for the most vulnerable people.

Despite these achievements, funding from the Government for hygiene and sanitation interventions remain too low, including support for the needed human resources to really make a difference. The national budget dedicated to the sector has significantly increased in recent years and MLGH has benefited from important additional staff hires with new water and sanitation officers posted throughout the country. However, the Government’s overall water and sanitation funding is low compared to other strategic sectors. Hygiene and sanitation this fiscal year received an overall budget allocation of 2.6% while education and health received 17.5% and 11.3% respectively.

According to the Word Bank, US$471 million is required annually for Zambia to fully meet the needs of the country’s water and sanitation sector, and about a third of this amount is currently mobilized by Government and its partners. For the nation to reach the Government’s goal of an open defecation free Zambia by 2020, the Government and cooperating partners need to triple the current budget dedicated to sanitation. It is a high figure, but as the evidence clearly states, this investment will reap enormous benefits for the country as we all work to help Zambia become a middle income country by 2030.

Thank you.

Dr. Hamid El Bashir Ibrahim

UNICEF Zambia Representative












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