UNICEF has a long history of emergency response, including in Zambia, and remains ready to support.

Cholera treatment centre entrance and handwashing station

The challenge

Children caught up in emergencies are among the most in danger of being left behind and having their normal development interrupted.

Children may account for 50 to 60 per cent of those affected by any emergency.

As well as the immediate threats to their survival, emergencies threaten children’s mental health and long-term well-being. A crisis can threaten their sense of security – a fundamental part of childhood – particularly when they experience things no child should experience. They become vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse, while their future prospects are disrupted by the loss of education, health care and economic opportunities.

Since independence in 1964, Zambia has been a stable and peaceful country. Nevertheless, situations requiring humanitarian response do arise, through armed conflict and violence in neighbouring countries, and internally with droughts, and disease outbreaks. The capital, Lusaka, faced an outbreak of cholera in 2017-18, which saw more than 5,000 infections and 114 deaths. Ongoing instability in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, has provoked arrivals of refugees, most recently in 2017 and 2018, when around 10,000 sought shelter in Nchelenge District.

The solution

UNICEF is on the ground before, during, and after emergencies, working to reach children and families with lifesaving aid and long-term assistance.

We support programmes that restore a sense of ‘normalcy’ for children.

UNICEF prioritizes the protection of children during emergencies, aiming to meet their immediate needs while protecting their long-term well-being. During every humanitarian crisis, we work with partners to meet children’s immediate needs for protection, health care, adequate nutrition, and access to education, well as clean water. In response to the cholera outbreak, centred on Lusaka, UNICEF supported the provision of clean water, helped disinfect wells, and supported door-to-door work in communities and schools to spread messages about good hygiene practices.

Responding to recent refugee arrivals, UNICEF supports the Government (Commissioner for Refugees), and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Zambia, notably in the areas of education; water, sanitation and hygiene; health; nutrition; HIV/AIDS; and child protection. You can find out more about our response to the refugee influx in the 'Resources' section below.

As well as responding to crises, we aim to prevent them. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) empowers communities in areas prone to natural hazards, such as flooding, drought and climate change, to stop such hazards escalating into humanitarian disasters.