Statement by UNICEF in Zambia on the situation of children following the recent emergency declaration

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Statement by UNICEF in Zambia on the situation of children following the recent emergency declaration

Lusaka, 4 March 2024 – Children in Zambia have been facing multiple challenges over the past few months. The country has been trying to curb a devastating cholera outbreak since October 2023, and now a drought, resulting from the impact of El Niño on the country which is “the worst of its kind,” as it has been defined by the President of the Republic, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, leading to increased vulnerabilities for families and communities.   

The drought has severely affected food production and access to clean water, worsening an already precarious situation. About six million people, translating to one million households, in 84 districts in Lusaka, Central, Copperbelt, Eastern, North-Western, Western and Southern provinces are bearing the brunt of the prolonged dry spell.

Following the emergency declaration by the Government of Zambia this week, UNICEF is working closely with government counterparts and local partners to assess the situation and strengthen an already robust response to ensure children and families are protected and supported.

“Climate change is taking a toll on children and youth in Zambia. We started the year responding to a cholera outbreak that has affected children across the country disproportionally, while the current drought threatens to worsen that situation by increasing the vulnerabilities of more than three million children. There is no time to waste. UNICEF, in close coordination with the UN family and partners, is supporting the Government to provide immediate lifesaving and life-sustaining assistance to the affected population, with a special focus on children and their families, while we strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable,” said Dr. Penelope Campbell, Representative, UNICEF Zambia.

In the area of nutrition, UNICEF will support capacity building of community health structures, including mother support groups, and of health workers, for nutrition preventive services and timely identification and treatment of children with severe wasting. UNICEF will also procure and pre-position supplies for the prevention and treatment of malnutrition, strengthen the analysis and utilization of nutrition data to inform the response, and support coordination of the nutrition response at national and sub-national level.

WASH will be critical in the response. UNICEF will support coordination between the Government and partners, as well as strengthen drought response capacities. UNICEF will plan emergency water supply, provide water treatment chemicals for alternative water sources, repair damaged water supplies and drill new water sources, as funds allow. Activities will also include working with communities and leaders to plan how to use limited water resources, including conflict resolution to ensure safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Working alongside Cooperating Partners, UNICEF will also support the Government of Zambia through the Ministry of Health to strengthen the national health system to ensure children and their families receive essential health services for the prevention and treatment of common childhood illnesses, which may become more prevalent due to the effects of the drought. The capacities of health workers, community-based volunteers, and Neighborhood Health Committees will also be strengthened to ensure that communities have access not only to lifesaving commodities for the treatment of childhood illnesses, but that they also have access to health prevention and promotion messages in the context of drought and know where to refer children when necessary.

In support to the Ministry of Community Development and Social services (MCDSS) and partners, UNICEF will provide protection services using case management to prevent and respond to violence, neglect, exploitation, and abuse of children, including sexual and gender-based violence, and to provide community-based psychosocial support.

To provide a comprehensive response for children and families in Zambia, UNICEF is currently seeking about 11 million for immediate lifesaving efforts as well as longer-term programmes to strengthen existing systems in the country to be more resilient to future climate challenges.


Notes for editors:

For more information, please contact:

Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030, [email protected]


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