Child Poverty in Zambia
Child poverty remains an issue in Zambia, a country with a very young population. According to estimates, about 46% of Zambians are aged 14 and younger and the median age is one of the world’s lowest at a mere 16.8 years. The young average age is part of why child poverty is especially rampant in Zambia.

Child Poverty in Zambia

Nearly 42% of Zambia’s population is classified as extremely impoverished. As almost half the population consists of children, child poverty is a grave concern. Many Zambian children lack adequate healthcare, nutrition and housing. Families’ struggles for these basic needs force them to keep their children out of school, and instead, send them into the workforce. According to a U.S. Bureau of International Labor Affairs report, Zambia’s most prevalent form of child labor is agricultural work. Working children face long workdays and physical abuse as they attempt to earn an income to secure their basic needs.

Causes of Child Poverty in Zambia

The youthful country’s population continues to grow, which UNICEF considers the leading cause of its high child poverty rate. The fertility rate is 4.7 children per woman, with an annual population growth rate of 3.2%. An increase in children for those who are already not financially stable worsens monetary problems, and when many financially struggling families have more children, it causes a jump in child poverty.

About one out of five children in Zambia does not live with their parents, leading to a large number of children living on the streets. These children are susceptible to dangers such as abuse, alcohol and drug addiction and prostitution.

Despite the country’s efforts to eliminate gender disparities, which have allowed for girls to enroll in school in the same numbers as boys, education access remains an issue. Families struggle to pay fees required for attendance and battle to provide their children with the transportation needed to travel long distances to school.

Zambia’s large child population leaves schools struggling with overpopulation and lacking sufficient study materials. School buildings are unsafe, people rarely follow sanitation policies, teachers do not always have the qualifications needed and sexual abuse raises concern. In addition to poor school conditions, the pressure on children to provide for their families also leads to a decrease in children attending school.


Initiatives have emerged in order to combat child poverty in Zambia. For example, Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) is an organization that works to improve the likelihood of Zambian children remaining in school. Founded in 1993, the organization aims to improve children’s access to education and ensure they finish school.

Zambian girls are more likely to drop out of school than males, with 13% of girls in rural areas having no education compared with just 5% of males in urban areas. According to CAMFED, poverty, child marriage and early pregnancy are the main factors that keep girls in rural areas from attending school.

CAMFED provides girls and people with disabilities with comprehensive material and non-material support and helps make them aware of the full potential they can live up to. Inspiring words and material necessities work together to show how important education is.

CAMFED’s Achievements

As of 2021, CAMFED Zambia has expanded its operations from three districts to 47 districts across four provinces. Girls who have accepted its support have demonstrated a school completion rate of 96%, with 98% of girls making at least some progress in school.

CAMFED has supported about 6,787 government partner schools across more than 161 districts in not only Zambia but Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi as well. The program has also managed to provide 376,898 students with secondary scholarships.

CAMFED works toward providing females with long-term support for their education, and, CAMFED’s reason is simple. Everyone should have an equal opportunity at living a full life, regardless of financial status. Through CAMFED Zambia, the children of Zambia are learning that receiving an education is possible and a life of poverty is not the only option.

Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

Ireland's Foreign AidIreland, with a population of approximately five million, has dedicated time and resources to alleviating poverty and hunger. The country’s “A Better World” policy has been a focus of Irish Aid, the government’s official foreign aid program. Ireland’s foreign aid works closely with many countries, prioritizing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, through development partnerships with local governments and communities and other international aid programs.

Irish Aid

Ireland’s foreign aid, better known as Irish Aid continues to provide development aid and assistance for the most impoverished communities in the world. The Humanitarian Programme Plan is one of the main sources of funding for Irish Aid’s work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In 2020, the budget was more than €15.8 million in order to maintain strong partnerships with NGOs while providing humanitarian assistance and emergency relief.

The Rapid Response Corps (RRC) is a group of 120 highly trained members that goes to communities for emergency response aid and crisis management. Irish Aid formed Standby Agreements for the RRC with four U.N. humanitarian agencies: The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Working with these organizations, Ireland’s foreign aid has resulted in more than 400 Rapid Response Corps deployments since 2007.

A Better World

Ireland’s newest foreign policy, “A Better World,” aims to promote sustainability and peace while providing developmental assistance and protecting human rights. Launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, this foreign aid policy is an example of how the Irish government is committing itself to “reaching the U.N. target of allocating 0.7% of our GNI to official development assistance by 2030.”

This new policy mainly focuses on gender equality, adequate governance and combating poverty. In addition, it aims to maintain partnerships with prominent aid programs and organizations to prioritize violence and conflict prevention, health and education, food sustainability and humanitarian crises. This policy will, therefore, ensure support to the most impoverished communities in the world through trackable funding, partnerships and emergency response.

Visible Impact

Because Ireland’s foreign aid has provided support and resources for some of the world’s impoverished communities, progress is visible. Irish Aid’s successes are notable, including a recent project providing access to education for girls in Zambia through a partnership with Campaign for Female Education. The project has supported marginalized girls with resources, funding and training while also breaking down the barriers barring girls from their right to an education. Another prominent impact of Ireland’s foreign aid is its commitment to clean and affordable energy. Irish Aid headed the National Cookstove Steering committee that provides cookstoves to individuals in Malawi as a solution to reduce deforestation and the health impacts of open fire cooking.

Irish Aid and the “A Better World” policy emphasize the importance of creating equal opportunities for impoverished communities by providing support to fight poverty and hunger as well as several other key global issues affecting the world today. Ireland has made immense strides in prioritizing foreign aid in the hope to join the fight for poverty alleviation.

Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

Education for Girls in Zambia
Due to extreme poverty in Zambia, many Zambian girls and women miss out on the opportunity to receive an education. With 64 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day, Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Unfortunately, this leads to serious repercussions for the youth in the country. In fact, the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Education Quality found that Zambia comes in at number 13 out of the 15 countries in terms of literacy and numeracy. In rural areas, 27 percent of females have no education, primarily due to poverty, pregnancy and early marriages.

The Impact of Marriage

The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative found that female literacy measures at 67 percent, while male literacy measures at 82 percent. This disparity holds females back in terms of economic advancement and independence from their male counterparts. The legal age for marriage in this country is 16. However, 46.3 percent of all girls marry before the age of 18. Further, evidence shows that early marriages play a big role in contributing to female dropout rates; therefore, initiatives encouraging women to delay marriage will likely decrease drop out rates.

Gender Equality in School

In Oct. 2018, Christine Kalamwina, the Zambia Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, recognized that girls’ education was imperative in ensuring gender equality and economic female progress. In response to this, the government in Zambia enacted a new law. This law made it mandatory for schools to have an equal number of males and females enrolled. The reasoning behind these efforts was to assist in closing the education gender gap. Additionally, many girls drop out of school due to menstruation. The Zambian government is now distributing free sanitary towels in rural areas to allow women more opportunities.


Fortunately, there are many organizations working towards improving education for girls in Zambia. The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) is one of the organizations that works with the local government in order to promote gender equality and child protection. It has already provided secondary scholarships for 38,168 girls in Zambia alone.

The International Development Association (IDA) has also made a crucial impact. The IDA is the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. The Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Project (GEWEL) is a program attempting to decrease the rate of child marriage. Its focus is on expanding access to secondary school for young girls, and more specifically, young girls from poor families through the Keep Girls in School bursary. Forced to drop out due to financial issues, the KGS assists by providing funds to continue girls’ education. There is also a program for working-age women, the Supporting Women’s Livelihood program, which offers training, startup funds, additional savings and mentor programs. Through the GEWEL project, 20,000 women received assistance in 2017, and in 2018, the project had a goal to help over 50,000 women.

– Jessica Haidet
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What Is the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative?

Thirty-one million school-aged girls are not in school, and 17 million of them are likely never going to be. Almost 60% of those who do not complete primary school are girls, and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate are female.

The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) is an organization formed 17 years ago out of Dakar, Senegal. Then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan founded the initiative to improve the educational opportunities for girls and gender equality across the globe.

The UNGEI is in partnership with 24 other organizations including Campaign for Female Education (Campfed), The Commonwealth Secretariat and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). The value in these partnerships contributes to the efficiency and functionality of the legal movement of these organizations’ collective goals via resident policymakers. By expanding its network through partnership, the presence of the organization is strengthened and enables the project to improve conditions globally by working locally.

All stakeholders in the UNGEI promote change through policy advocacy. According to their website, UNGEI cites these four crucial focuses as targets:

  1. The enhancement of marginalized groups.
  2. The prevention of gender-motivated violence in schools.
  3. A brighter future through education for girls.
  4. Continuation of school for girls.

These goals are accomplished through policy solutions that involve gender issues in education. UNGEI actively advocates to chief platforms that influence education policy and funding allocation.

In 2003, Annan stated that, “if we are to succeed in our efforts to build a more healthy, peaceful and equitable world, the classrooms of the world have to be full of girls as well as boys.” A growing economy and the formal education of girls are positively correlated. The prevention of HIV/AIDS and a decreased occurrence of infant and maternal mortality are guaranteed when more girls are educated, Annan argues.

A 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report found that if all mothers completed primary school education, maternal deaths would decrease by two-thirds. Furthermore, there would be a 15% reduction in child deaths, and malnutrition would affect 1.7 million fewer children.

On March 8, 2017, UNGEI and Global Partnership for Education launched the Guidance for Developing Gender-Responsive Education Sector Plans. This outline helps guide developing nations toward a gender-sensitive educational environment. UNGEI has greatly contributed to the increase in children attending school.

Today, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative continues to strive toward its mission’s core values. Data suggests that by 2050, only five countries will have a rate of above 20% of the population receiving no education, and with continued work by the UNGEI, perhaps these countries can someday reach a 100% education rate.

Sloan Bousselaire

Photo: Flickr