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While the overall economic outlook in Zambia has been brightening, many Zambians have yet to share in the benefits: 64 per cent of the population lives on less than $1 a day. Government austerity measures have tamed inflation and introduced fiscal discipline, but these strategies have also hindered the delivery of social services. Zambia has been very hard hit by HIV/AIDS; the adult prevalence rate is over 16 per cent.
Issues facing children in Zambia
As a result of mother-to-child transmission rate of HIV/AIDS, more than 30,000 children are born HIV-positive each year.
AIDS has left a generation of orphans in its wake: more than 20 per cent of Zambian children have lost one or both parents. Households with widows and orphans often lack the resources to cultivate sufficient food. Some 75,000 children live on the street.
Malaria is the leading killer of children.
About 50 per cent of children under age 5 are affected by undernutrition; anaemia and vitamin A deficiency are widespread.
Zambia’s health-care system faces shortages of drugs, equipment and qualified personnel, especially in rural areas.
Only 36 per cent of the rural population has access to improved drinking water sources.
Thanks to the elimination of tuition fees, primary-school enrolment rates have increased; the gender gap is less than 1 per cent. However, there is a severe teacher shortage, and many students do not master fundamental skills in language and mathematics.
Activities and results for children
A large influx of international aid has galvanized Zambia’s response to the AIDS epidemic. UNICEF has launched a major initiative to procure anti-retroviral drugs, along with supplies for rapid HIV testing. Programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission now exist in 110 health-care facilities.
Deaths from measles and malaria have declined significantly in recent years.
UNICEF sponsors biannual Child Health Weeks throughout Zambia, providing an integrated package of vitamin-A supplements, de-worming, and immunizations.
UNICEF formed a coalition to fight domestic violence and abuse, coordinating a major media campaign and enlisting the involvement of Zambia’s president and first lady.
UNICEF supported a feeding program in 61 schools. The ‘Go Girls’ outreach campaign focused on improving girls’ access to education.
Life-skills curriculum is raising awareness among young people about HIV and malaria prevention.
The introduction of an effective reading comprehension programme in primary schools has improved literacy. UNICEF has trained 4,000 teachers and provided learning materials to expand this curriculum to community schools serving disadvantaged children.
UNICEF assisted in building and rehabilitating hundreds of wells, latrines, and hand-washing facilities, bringing clean water and sanitation to thousands of families and hundreds of schools.