Child Protection

child protection
© UNICEF/Zambia

Key Statistics

 • Zambia has one of the lowest birth registration rates globally (less than 10 percent) and slow progress in raising registration figures.
 • 1.2 million orphans under 15 years of age -- 800,000 are affected by HIV and AIDS.
 • High rate of early marriage with 42 percent of women aged 20-24 married before 18 years of age.
 • An estimated 20,000 children are street working/living.
 • Approximately 12 percent of children aged 5-14 years are working.


Largely due to the threats of profound poverty and HIV and AIDS, children in Zambia are at greater risk of social exclusion and exploitation than ever before. Poverty is widespread, with 64 percent of the total population living below the poverty line, rising to 80 percent in rural areas. The HIV and AIDS pandemic has diverse social and economic effects and has caused many deaths among working-age adults. A third of children lose one or both parents before they reach adulthood, with 19 percent of orphans losing both their mother and father. 1.2 million children are orphaned and one in three of these orphans are living with a grandparent.


In Zambia, domestication of human rights treaties needs to be strengthened. Resources allocated to child protection are inadequate and there is insufficient reliable data to inform programming. There is also a lack of integrated family support services which increases the vulnerability of children. Though the framework for service delivery exists, coverage and quality are limited. Further, the effects of the global economic crisis may threaten child survival and development, entrench chronic poverty, and create long-term harm for the poorest.

Vulnerable households include children living with non traditional heads of households, such as grandparents or children themselves. As these are groups that are dependants, not providers, such households are often incapable of generating adequate income or providing the care or protection that mothers and fathers traditionally provide. In addition, many more households are headed by mothers and fathers who are also vulnerable due to high levels of domestic violence, unemployment, and substance abuse.


UNICEF’s Zambia’s Child Protection programme provides protection and support to vulnerable children and women, strengthening households and community ability to care for children, reducing risk of exploitation and abuse, and ensuring vulnerable households have access to child protection services. The programme focuses on three main areas. The first addresses child protection system building by supporting Government to develop policies and a regulatory framework, family support services, protective services, and out-of-home care.

This includes developing and monitoring standards of care, supporting district level child protection committees, and supporting coordination and monitoring of child protection and family support services. UNICEF supports Government, as the duty bearer, to deliver effective and inclusive services to improve the well-being of vulnerable children and households. 

The second area works on developing a child sensitive justice system through which UNICEF supports Government to promote family and child friendly courts, access to legal aid, case management, referral, and monitoring for children who come into contact with the justice system. UNICEF works to promote diversion of children in conflict with the law through promoting restorative justice and non-custodial sentencing and promoting services for reintegration of former child offenders.  Ensuring Zambia meets its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the programme promotes supporting law reform efforts and working with parliamentarians on children’s rights. In addition, UNICEF continues to provide advice and capacity building to ensure that the public is knowledgeable about the law and that law enforcement officials are fully oriented to a child rights perspective. 

The third area promotes birth registration including the formulation and strengthening of national policies and strategies, simplifying procedures for birth registration, and community mobilisation. UNICEF is supporting Government to review the current systems of registration with the intention of significantly increasing access to free and compulsory birth registration.

In addition to Government efforts, UNICEF also recognises the fundamental significance of families and communities in the protection and care of vulnerable children. UNICEF builds capacity within non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) to identify at-risk groups and provide locally sustainable responses. By building Government and local capacity, UNICEF aims to keep children in safe families and reduce instances of violence, abuse, and exploitation of children.
UNICEF shares national concerns about the problem of violence against children. UNICEF works to improve data and information about prevalence rates of violence and raise awareness about the issue with the aim of promoting greater understanding about the harmful effects of violence. UNICEF also works to ensure greater recourses are allocated to violence prevention. In addition, UNICEF supports actions to improve the response to violence against children by supporting efforts to improve services to children affected by violence and building capacity among prosecutors and health workers. UNICEF is supporting the opening of One-Stop Centres nationwide, where victims receive comprehensive support protection from the Victim Support Unit as well as from the Child Protection Units of the Zambian National Police to investigate and respond to cases in a child sensitive manner.


A national guideline on gender-based violence (GBV) developed, five One-Stop Centres established, and re-drafting of the GBV Bill strengthened.
Children benefiting from more child sensitive justice procedures through the capacity development of 525 inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral teams to handle children as child witnesses in court, as well as preparing the child for their court appearance.
Under the National Child Justice Forum, the judiciary capacity of Government was strengthened. At the district level, Child Justice Forums (inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral committees) and child-friendly courts were scaled up from 15 to 25 districts, with 320 trained in child justice administration.
Thirteen District Childcare and Protection Committees (DCPCs) established and functional with clear TORs and guidelines developed and in place for use in responding to the needs of vulnerable children at district and community levels. Terms of reference, annual work plans, and guidelines put in place to support the functioning of the DCPCs.  In addition, capacity of 325 members of DCPCs strengthened in minimum standards of care, basic qualification in child care, and psycho social counselling.
Parliamentary Caucus on Children established (August 2008) to promote child rights and laws reviewed, including the draft GBV Act and Anti-Trafficking Act.
Communities better informed about the risks of trafficking through community level promotion and mobilization conducted in 10 districts of Zambia, including border districts where there is a high rate of cross-border movement.

UNICEF’s Country Programme 2011-15

Under the United Nations Development Assistance Framework, Child Protection will contribute to:

Outcome 3: Vulnerable People Living in Zambia Have Improved Quality of Life and Well-Being by 2015.

Expected Results in 2011-15 UNICEF Zambia Country Programme – Child Protection
 • By 2015, develop and strengthen multi-sectoral mechanisms at the national and sub-national levels for prevention, care, and protection of children, including in emergency situations.
 • By 2014, Government and its civil society partners have the capacity to provide children affected by HIV and AIDS with appropriate and equitable social welfare and child protection services in selected districts.
 • By 2015, Government systems have the capacity to prevent and respond to children in contact with the law at all stages of the justice system.
 • By 2014, birth registration increased from 10 percent to 50 percent among the under-five age group and from 10 percent to 30 percent among 6-18 years.




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