Social Protection

Social Protection
© UNICEF/Zambia

Key Statistics

 • The national poverty rate was most recently estimated at 64 percent (80 percent rural, 53 percent urban).
 • Zambia has an HIV prevalence of 14.3 percent, with provincial variations ranging from 7 percent in Northern Province to 21 percent in Lusaka Province.
 • In 2007, 3 percent of girls 15-19 years of age were married before the age of 15 and 46 percent of women 20-49 years of age were married by age 18.


Poverty in Zambia remains high among the rural population, especially those in the most remote and underserved districts. The persistence of poverty both drives and is driven by poor nutrition, low standards of housing -- and the lack of access to safe water, quality health services, and quality primary education. As a result, poverty prevents the majority of Zambian children from fully enjoying their rights, and undermines future prospects for the country’s development. 

Zambia has for many years experienced a generalised HIV epidemic. Despite progress in controlling both new infections and access to treatment, the scale and impact of the epidemic remain as major concerns. Besides being a key driver of the epidemic, the persistence of inequality and discrimination facing Zambian women continues to create significant barriers to social and economic development.

In addressing the urgent needs of children, the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) has developed a National Social Protection Strategy, which formed the basis of the comprehensive set of social protection activities identified in the Fifth National Development Plan and subsequently the Sixth National Development Plan. The GRZ recognises social protection as a broad range of activities which aim to protect and promote the welfare and livelihoods of the poorest and of those most vulnerable to risks and shocks. These include destitute households, households that are severely compromised in terms of meeting their own needs, street children and others living without adult care, and women and children affected by violence. Each of these groups has specific programming needs which are reflected in the range of activities identified in the plan. 

UNICEF is supporting GRZ efforts to provide appropriate social protection measures across the country. In line with the regional strategy, which is committed to developing social protection measures to reduce social and economic risk and vulnerability, UNICEF is engaged in supporting policy and programme design to ensure appropriate interventions to address both chronic and short term poverty and insecurity. 

Rapid assistance is needed to prevent many children from suffering from illness, malnutrition, deprivation, and the life-long impacts of a deeply impoverished childhood. Social protection has been identified as a key priority in protecting and promoting the welfare of children exposed to multiple deprivations, either chronic or as a result of short term shocks.


Zambia has launched a social cash transfer programme which aims to improve the standard of living in the most impoverished households, especially those facing the greatest challenges in exiting poverty and for children in particular. Good decisions have been made about the design of the programme – including how to define beneficiaries, how to identify them, and how to deliver their benefits – which must be supported by increasing the capacity to deliver services, developing public awareness, and ensuring adequate monitoring and oversight.

UNICEF Zambia is supporting GRZ in the expansion of the cash transfer schemes. In 2011, some 15,000 households will start receiving universal child grants in the districts of greatest poverty and under-five mortality. As co-lead among the partners supporting this initiative, UNICEF has taken responsibility for providing technical support to this process. Key priorities at present include developing the Management of Information System (MIS) and monitoring and evaluation systems, supporting the design of e-payment mechanisms capable of reaching remote communities, and finalising the design of a vulnerability targeting system to complement the existing child grant mechanism.

In 2011, GRZ will start the process of developing a social protection policy. This policy will bring together the cash transfers and diverse other forms of social protection, making a clear statement on the set of measures and entitlements that will ensure access to basic services and provide transfers in response to specific circumstances or needs. UNICEF is also supporting the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in developing new proposals for a national universal age-based benefit (or social pension). 


 • The 10-year programme that has been agreed to scale up social cash transfers has already reached 21,000 households and is on course for further expansion.
 • Social cash transfers are expected to bring multiple benefits. Besides increasing consumption, improving health and facilitating access to school, social transfers will support the strengthening of household livelihoods and the development of systems to deliver rights-based entitlements to services and social security.



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