Zambia National Disability Survey (2015)

The second national study on disability in Zambia

A teacher points to a black board with a student in a wheelchair
UNICEF Zambia/2016/Schermbrucker


The Zambia National Disability Survey 2015 was initiated by the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS), and implemented by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and the University of Zambia (UNZA), in collaboration with SINTEF Technology and Society (Norway) and UNICEF Zambia.

Its main objective was to estimate the national prevalence of disability among adults and children, disaggregated by sex, severity of disability, province and the rural/urban division. It is based on the understanding of disability set out in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) (WHO, 2001).

Key findings:

  • Prevalence of disability was estimated to be 10.9 per cent among adults (18+ years). It was higher in urban than in rural areas, and higher among females than among males. Among children (2–17 years), the prevalence was estimated to be 4.4 per cent.
  • Prevalence varied between the provinces, with the highest estimates in Luapula and Copperbelt Provinces among both adults and children.
  • The most common functional problem reported was with sight; this was followed by problems with walking, remembering, hearing, self-care and communication.
  • A large majority (57.9 per cent) reported mild disability; moderate and severe disability were highest for sight and walking problems.
  • Of individuals with disability, around one in three had more than one functional problem. Severity of disability varied with sex, location and province – and also to some extent with increasing age.
  • Nearly one person in three gave disease/illness as the main cause of disability, while one in eight reported that the disability had been present at birth (congenital).
  • While disability onset in the population could occur at any stage of life, about a third identified it as occurring between birth and 20 years of age. More than one in five (21.1 per cent) acquired their disability after the age of 60.
  • Around 10 per cent said they had been beaten or scolded, and around 8 per cent reported experience of having been discriminated against by public services.
  • Abuse and discrimination increased with severity of disability. About 8 per cent had experienced physical abuse as a child, while 2 per cent had suffered sexual abuse. There are variations between the provinces in all these indicators; also more females than males had experienced sexual abuse, whereas somewhat more males had experienced beating/scolding and physical abuse.
  • Gaps in access to services were identified and measured as a proportion of those who needed a service but did not access it. Empowerment programmes (94.3 per cent), welfare services (93.4 per cent) and legal aid (84.7 per cent) had the largest gaps, while the lowest were in health services (8.1 per cent) and health information (9.9 per cent).
  • About 20 per cent of individuals with disability used an assistive device.
  • Relatively few persons with disabilities are aware of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and only 5.3 percent said they belonged to one. The large majority did, however, vote in general elections, and the differences between persons with and without disability were small.
  • About 1 in 10 persons with disabilities experienced problems with accessibility. This problem was more pronounced outside the home, and for many of them hotels, recreational facilities, sports facilities and banks were not accessible. Fewer accessibility problems were reported for primary health clinics, places of worship, shops and hospitals.  In rural areas, the main problem is that many of the services and facilities are simply not available to persons with disabilities.
  • A large majority of respondents reported having accessed formal primary education, though fewer persons with disabilities (80.8 per cent) than without (89.9 per cent) reported having attended school at some point. Generally, persons with disabilities, rural dwellers and females reported fewer years at school.
Report front cover, green and orange
Central Statistical Office / Ministry of Community Development & Social Services
Publication date

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