Many of Zambia’s children need protection from the risk and harm that threatens their rights and well-being. Exposure to poverty and deprivation is widespread, whilst many children are also exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation.
The estimated 13,000 street children and 20,000 child-headed households are perhaps at greatest risk, but a great number of other children are similarly affected. With nearly 50 per cent of children aged between 7 and 14 engaged in economic activities, many children are exposed to harmful or exploitative labour, with some subjected to trafficking either within the country or possibly internationally.
A range of social protection programmes are being expanded to meet the diverse needs of children exposed to risk and harm.
For children living in households utterly unable to meet their basic needs and suffering the worst outcomes for children, the Government is establishing social assistance programmes, providing regular cash transfers to the most vulnerable.
When children come into contact with the law, either as perpetrators or victims, the existing laws and judicial systems are largely inadequate to protect child witnesses and victims of gender based violence (GBV), or give a fair trial to children in contact with the law.
In line with the passage of the GBV Bill, awareness-raising to highlight this issue is needed. Communities, including those most at risk, need to build resilience, working together to reduce the incidence of violence. In response to incidents of violence, social workers, health workers and police officers need information and training about how children should be handled, their rights as victims/accused persons, and the services and resources available to them.
In Zambia birth registration currently stands at 10 per cent of all births, failing to meet with the requirement of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which stipulates the right of every child to be given an identity at birth, so that his or her origins and nationality are secured and to help safeguard numerous human rights, including the right to inheritance.
Supporting efforts to realize the rights and development of women and children in Zambia presents a significant, multi-sectoral challenge. Strategies for education, health, water and sanitation and child protection must address the challenges posed by poverty and the HIV and AIDS pandemic, while supporting the development of capacity to engage with these problems on a full-scale, long-term national basis.