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Sida's work in Zambia

Sida's work in Zambia aims to increase respect for human rights and gender equality, improve access to equitable healthcare and promote climate and environmental sustainability.The 2021 elections raised hopes for a positive democratic development, but many challenges remain.

Progress has been made

Steps towards greater democracy

After an opposition party won the 2021 elections, the prospects for a positive democratic development in Zambia are good.

Anti-corruption is a priority

There is now zero tolerance of corruption, and several former ministers and high-ranking officials have been arrested. Misappropriated funds are being recovered.

More people have access to sustainable energy

Over one million Zambians who lacked access to the fixed electricity grid now have access to basic electricity services thanks to the Beyond the Grid Fund.1

Challenges remain

Gender equality is not a political priority

The percentage of ministers and women in parliament has decreased and is now only 13%. The Ministry of Gender Equality was dissolved after the 2021 elections.2

High levels of poverty and malnutrition

More than half of the population lives in poverty.3 The country also shows worrying statistics when it comes to malnutrition and children not growing properly due to malnutrition.4

Not everyone has access to care

Access to health care is very unequal. There are major shortages of equipment, medicines and staff.

Sida's support to Zambia

Zambia has long been seen as a model of peace and democracy by southern African countries. Until the economic crisis of 2015, Zambia was one of the continent’s most successful. The political situation deteriorated and increased tensions between different social groups.

The peaceful and democratic elections held in August 2021 have led to some improvements, but progress remains fragile and uncertain. Poverty is widespread, particularly in rural areas. However, the pandemic hit the cities hardest.5

Human rights, democracy and gender equality

Zambia has a democratic system in place, with several political parties and regular elections. In recent years, freedom of expression and assembly has been restricted. Universities, trade unions, student movements and civil society organisations have been weakened. Girls and women are particularly vulnerable.

The government, which took office in 2021, has declared its commitment to media freedom, promoting the rule of law and fighting corruption.

Women’s political participation and representation is a challenge, as are the rights of LGBTQI people.

Reducing corruption

Although corruption has decreased in recent years, it is still relatively high.6 Sida supports Transparency International, which monitors and campaigns against corruption, and also cooperates with the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.

About Zambia on Transparency International’s website

Increased press freedom

Freedom of the press in Zambia is lacking. Sida works with BBC Media Action, which strengthens the country’s media sector through, for example, training for journalists on election monitoring, human rights reporting and ethical issues. In the 2021 election year, the organisation worked with the Zambia Police Service to develop the country’s first manual on how police officers and journalists can work together to increase press freedom. As a result, the police instructed their staff not to stop live radio broadcasts, reducing the number of press freedom violations.

BBC Media Actions website

Better economy for women

Gender equality is in decline. Child marriage is common. Sida supports NGOCC, an umbrella organisation of NGOs and community-based organisations in Zambia working to improve gender equality. In 2021, more than 100 women were able to register land in their own name thanks to the cooperation. Support has also led to a ban on child marriage in the Eastern Province.

About the work on the NGOCC website

Increased social security

Sida supports social protection systems in Zambia, giving priority to the most vulnerable, such as single mothers, the disabled, the chronically ill, the elderly and children. One example is the Girls’ Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Project (GEWEL), a partnership between the World Bank and the Government of Zambia. Providing cash grants to secondary school-aged girls to help them afford schooling is another component. In 2021, Keeping Girls in School reached 38,000 girls who had their education costs covered.

Sida is also working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), whose Emergency Cash Transfer initiative provided cash assistance to 1.2 million people during the pandemic. Among those reached by the intervention, gender-based violence fell from 18% to 0%.

Equal health and sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR)

Zambia has made progress in the health sector in the past, but the country struggles with a heavy burden of disease and a lack of trained staff. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the health sector. For example, the percentage of women giving birth in delivery clinics fell by half in 2021, from 72 % to 35 %, and essential drugs and commodities such as contraceptives for sexual and reproductive health and rights were not enough. Malnutrition is common and maternal and infant mortality rates are high. Girls and young women are particularly hard hit.


Better care for women, young people and children

Access to good quality care varies according to gender, income, education level and where in the country you live. Sida supports the Zambian Ministry of Health’s efforts to improve and equalise access to health care and health services. The focus is on improving the health and nutrition of women, adolescents and children and putting health care providers at the centre of primary health care. This includes training health workers in emergency obstetric care, adolescent health and health data collection. Rural volunteers are trained in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and preventive maternal health. The main target group is adolescents.

Better abortion care and counselling

Child marriage, unwanted pregnancies, HIV and domestic violence affect many Zambians.7 Access to contraception is poor. Sida works with the Marie Stopes organisation, which provides information and advice on contraception and safe abortion. In 2021, 90,500 unintended pregnancies, 40,900 unsafe abortions and 660 maternal deaths were prevented thanks to this work.

Sida also supports the organisation Ipas. Through awareness-raising, advocacy and training of health workers, Ipas works to increase acceptance of and access to contraceptive counselling and abortion. Thanks to Sida’s cooperation, more health clinics are offering abortion care, from 140 in 2020 to 269 in 2021 in four provinces

Repairing vital medical equipment

The lack of functioning or even available essential medical equipment means that many Zambians do not receive the care they need. Sida supports the Tropical Health and Education Trust, which ensures that health equipment works in four provinces. The work has resulted in equipment working 96 percent of the time in 2021 compared to 75 percent previously.

About the work on the Tropical Health and Education Trust website

Environment, climate, sustainable energy and economic development

Zambia is severely affected by the impacts of climate change, including droughts, floods, rising temperatures and heavy and unpredictable rains. Agricultural production is vulnerable to climate change. Awareness of climate change has increased in recent years. In Zambia, especially in rural areas, many people lack access to electricity.


Better access to sustainable electricity

The Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia is helping to ensure that people who are off-grid have access to renewable and affordable electricity. When Sida and the Swedish Embassy in Zambia started the project in 2017, only 4 % of rural residents had access to basic electricity services for lighting, listening to the radio and charging their mobile phones. Now the percentage has increased to 14 percent. Now over one million have access to electricity through the project.

Renewable electricity reduces climate impact, creates jobs and improves conditions for people in rural areas. The aim is to bring renewable electricity to a further 7 million people in the country. Beyond the Grid is also active in DR Congo, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Liberia.

Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa’s website

A more climate-smart agriculture

Small farmers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The SNV organisation is working to develop climate-smart farming practices and increase the production of biogas and sludge for use both in agriculture and as an alternative to charcoal. This work has led to increased interest among small farmers in using organic fertilisers and co-planting crops with nitrogen-fixing trees, which increases resilience to climate change.

About SNV’s work in Zambia on the organisation’s website

Farmers get an opportunity to develop their businesses

The vast majority of the population works in the informal sector. Sida’s partner organisation Musika enables small-scale farmers to connect with businesses in the agricultural sector. This makes it easier for farmers to develop their businesses and sell their produce. In 2021, nearly 3,900 warehousing companies, sales agents and other intermediaries were able to offer agricultural products to businesses thanks to the support.

About the work on the Musika website

Vocational training that creates jobs

Poverty rates are rising rapidly in urban areas, as people move there from rural areas, often without relevant education. Sida is supporting the Private Public Development Partnership, a collaboration between Volvo, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Northern Technical College, which has led to the launch of a new vocational training programme. The majority of students come from rural areas and an increasing number are women. The curriculum ensures that training is matched to industry needs.

About the project on the UNIDO website

Updated: October 7, 2022