Zambia’s Progress on MDGs-2010

Zambia’s Progress on MDGs-2010


  1. Zambia’s progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been mixed across the goals. The current MDG Progress Report (2008) shows that the MDG targets on hunger, universal primary education, gender equality and HIV and AIDS are likely to be met; it also shows that progress on achieving MDG targets on extreme poverty; child and maternal mortality; malaria and other diseases; and water and sanitation has been slow, although the country has the potential to achieve them.  The Report further shows that the MDG target on environmental sustainability is not likely to be achieved. (See annex 2 showing status on selected MDG targets).
  2. Since 2001, Zambia’s Real GDP grew at an annual average rate of 5-6%. This has enabled the economy of Zambia to move from stagnation and dependence on aid toward steadier growth and increased access to domestic and foreign direct investment. Mining, construction, and service sectors have been the main drivers for the expansion of GDP.
  3. The share of the education sector increased from 2.2 percent of GDP in 2001 to 4.1 percent in 2009.  The free education policy, gender mainstreaming in the educational curriculum and Government’s decision to integrate the private sector, NGOs, FBOs and CBOs in the provision of education have contributed to growth in universal primary education.  Gender-based organizations have supplemented government efforts by increasing educational opportunities for girls. 
  4. The Fifth National Development (FNDP) 2006-2010 formulated Joint Gender Sector Programme with major twin objectives of gender capacity building and to review legislation for more gender responsiveness. Nonetheless, the empowerment of women to participate in economic programme remained a challenge. For instance women continue to be responsible for 80% of the food production and provide about 70% of the labor especially in subsistence farming (Bridge June 2008:3), but most of them (55%) are not paid. Gender disparity is rampant in decision making process; women participation had only increased from 10% in 1997 to 18% in 2004 (GRZ 2004). out of the 150 MPs elected only 22 are female, out of 26 Cabinet Ministers only 5 are women and of which only 2 are full cabinet ministers. In the civil service, out of 42 permanent secretaries only 7 are women and there is no woman among the 24 deputy permanent secretaries (ZARD). Between 85-90% victims of gender based violence are women. Almost half (47%) of women have experienced physical violence since they were 15 years with the majority being between age bracket of 15-25 years. In a nutshell, Zambia let alone to meet the 50% of the SADC revised benchmark, it is not near to the initial 30% requirement to fill all decision making positions.
  5. The prevalence of underweight children declined from 22% in 1991 to 14.6% in 2007 against the MDG target of 11% by 2015.  Targeted interventions in health and nutrition contributed to the improvement of underweight children. Further, increased growth in the agriculture sector has also created opportunities for food security, although it has still remained a challenge in some parts of the country. Notwithstanding, the under five children stunting rate is 45%, an indication of a significant nutritional problem in the larger population with severe malnutrition remaining static at 5% posing a great challenge to child mortality.
  6. Maternal mortality ratio has declined from 729 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2002 to 591 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2007(ZDHS 2007). However, Zambia is still off track to meet the MDG target. Fertility rates remain high and levels of skilled birth attendance are poor. Zambia is planning to spend USD 10 million over the next three years to improve birth outcomes by increasing the availability of emergency obstetric equipment and the number of midwives present during births.
  7. Zambia is rated seventh among sub-Saharan African countries suffering from a high burden of the HIV epidemic with 14.3% of the adult population (15-49 years) currently estimated to be HIV positive. Ninety two percent (92%) of new HIV infections are estimated to arise through heterosexual sex (71 % with non-regular and 21% with regular sexual partners). The remaining 8% of new infections are attributable to vertical transmission). The national estimate of people living with HIV (PLWHA) has reduced from 16% to 14.3%. In Zambia, the highest prevalence figures follow closely the line of road and rail networks. Formative qualitative studies conducted in Zambia in 2008 found concurrent sexual partnership is common among women in need of money, and men with disposable income.
  8. Malaria indicators survey (2008) indicates that Zambia is making significant progress in reducing both morbidity and malaria case fatality. This is as a result of implementing integrated interventions at scale including use of more effective drugs, insecticide treated nets and intermittent preventive therapy for pregnant women. Malaria deaths reported from health facilities in Zambia have declined by 66 per cent. This result along with other supporting data indicates that Zambia has reached the 2010 Roll Back Malaria target of more than 50 per cent reduction in malaria mortality compared to 95 per cent in 2000.
  9. Zambia has formulated many laws and regulations addressing environmental issues. These include one environmental law, eight resources conservation laws and at least 24 laws of administrative nature. It has enacted several statutory instruments that amplify the provisions of various acts. A few of these laws have been derived from sectoral policies (forestry, water and wildlife), the country has now national environmental policy. The MTR 2009 of the FNDP reveal that environmental issues were not integrated adequately in the policy framework, national budget processes and institutional arrangements. As a result, only 11% of the total of ZK 172 billion allocated to the sector under the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources were realized. Some of the projects affected include beekeeping, research, operationalizing of the environmental policy and legislation, and forest protection. There is high dependence on forests with 70% of the country’s energy needs satisfied from wood fuel. Forest products contribution ranges from 20% to 54% of total gross income of total household income.
  10.  Zambia’s external debt declined by some US 6.25 billion or 77% by 2006, as a result of debt relief measures from IMF, WB, and the African Development Fund. It also qualified for 100% debt relief form individual countries such as China and India while other debts to five additional countries have been repaid.



  1. Zambia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 164 out of 177 in the United Nations Human Development Report 2009. Despite almost a decade of growth and even longer experience with peaceful, democratic governance, the level of poverty still remains as high as 64%.  Extreme poverty has fallen marginally from 58% in 1991 to 51% in 2006.  To achieve the MDG target by 2015, extreme poverty has to drop further to 29%.  Furthermore, the incidence of extreme poverty has consistently been higher in the rural (67%) than urban (20%) areas.  In 2006, Zambia’s Gini coefficient was 0.52, an indication that income inequality is very high. Accelerating economic growth and ensuring that the majority of Zambia’s population can benefit from this growth remain Zambia’s central developmental challenges.
  2. Some countries have been able to narrow the gap between high and low-income segments, which has helped to ensure that the benefits of growth are more evenly distributed.  Ethiopia, for instance, has for years achieved a very low score on the Gini Coefficient.  While poverty rates are high, the rural poverty rate of 39% is only slightly higher than the urban rate at 35%.  A key element to maintaining equality in Ethiopia has been the country’s agricultural development-led industrialization strategy, which focuses on modernizing the country’s subsistence-level and inefficient agricultural production system.  The strategy guided an integrated effort that included initiatives such as improved vocational training for farmers, better land management and more secure rights, market-based initiatives, and targeted interventions in areas prone to flooding or with non-productive land. In the case of Ghana, it had by 2006 already halved the proportion of people living in extreme poverty.  Although the success was attributed to foreign direct investment in the country and high global cocoa and gold prices, a vital aspect was an innovative approach that integrated programmes that included food transfers, employment initiatives and agricultural investments.
  3. Low human and institutional capacity. The devastating human and developmental impacts of the AIDS pandemic remain one of the most formidable sets of challenges impeding the realization of Zambia’s development aspirations. In addition, inadequacies in essential vocational and entrepreneurial skills. There is clear lack of skill development institutions (the existing skill development centers are limited to some provinces and focusing on limited field of trainings) that crucial for advancing nutrition in Zambia.  For example, to address the shortfall of trained medical personnel, Egypt recruited traditional village birth attendants and trained them in modern midwifery, hence incorporating them in the modern health care system.  This has contributed to having sufficient nurses or midwives for the primary health care facilities. The maternal mortality rate decreased from 174 per 100,000 live births in 1992 to 55 in 2000.
  4. The rate of gross capital formation in Zambia (25.8% of GDP in 2006) is far below the 34% UN estimates (benchmark to meet the MDGs). The low rate of investments is due to the unfavorable investment climate despite some recent improvements.  It also reflects the low levels of domestic savings, 5.1% of GDP in 2006-2010.  Increasing the available resources to finance investments and improving productivity of these investments is essential for Zambia to achieve faster and more inclusive growth.
  5. Budgetary allocations to the health sector in Zambia have been quite low over the past four years, averaging about 10% of the total budget, which is far below than the 14% recommended in the Abuja Declaration.  Similarly, for water and sanitation, national budget allocation has been very low at about 2.4% over the past four years, which compares unfavorably with the recommended 10% in the Abuja Declaration. High interest rates (27%) and limited access to affordable financing has reduced business competitiveness and impeded growth. There is need to target and scale up investments in health and water and sanitation sectors.  Rapid improvements in these sectors have occurred in countries where there have been adequate expenditures and strong new partnerships. 
  6. For example, Afghanistan significantly decreased under-five mortality between 2002 and 2004 by focusing on construction of health centers and training health workers.  Guatemala increased access to safe water from 79% in 1990 to 96% in 2006.  Egypt improved maternal health by increasing access to essential obstetric care and neonatal services, especially among vulnerable populations.  Between 1992 and 2000 alone, the maternal mortality rate decreased from 174 per 100,000 live births to 55. 


Emerging Issues

  1. Climate Change. In Zambia, any change in climate can spell disaster. With over 70% Zambians depending on agriculture, even a slight change in temperature can affect crops like maize with catastrophic consequences for livelihoods.
  2. Climate change has also begun to affect Zambia’s national tourism industry. If extreme weather changes continue, in about 50 years, all that will remain of the Victoria Falls, known as the “7th wonder of the world”, could turn into an empty ravine. Since Zambia’s tourism industry rests on the country’s natural resources, this would have devastating economic effects. Extreme weather is affecting wildlife and flora alike. The government of Zambia has taken the challenge seriously. It has launched a National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) and is in the process of preparing a national climate change response strategy.
  3. The international financial crisis and global economic slowdown has subsequently affected negatively the main active sectors of the economy particularly the market for copper, the main driver of the economy for over 70 years. Zambia’s continued reliance on copper as the main foreign exchange earner (54% in 2006) implies that the overall economy remains susceptible to external conditions. For instance, copper prices fell from a record high of US$9000(2006) to US$ 3,900 (March 2009) as a result of the 2008/9 economics and financial crisis. It is estimated that over 14,000 jobs were lost in the mines owing to the tumbling copper prices resulting from the global financial crisis.
  4. Human Development: Zambia compared to other Countries in terms of human development, it’s Human Development Index (HDI) fell from 0.495 in 1990 to 0.481 in 2007 (see annex 1).  The decrease in Zambia’s HDI, amongst other factors is largely attributed to a fall in the life expectancy at birth, from 54.4 yrs in 1990 to 44.5 yrs in 2007. The GDP per capita increased from US$ 744 in 1990 to US$1,358 in 2007.  The adult literacy rate decreased marginally, from 73% in 1990 to 71% in 2007.  The fall in life expectancy has mainly been explained by the high HIV prevalence rates, which have resulted in higher morbidity. The HIV epidemic has also placed high demand on health services and has affected the extent to which other health needs can be met by the sector.
  5. Other countries that had a Human Development Index below that of Zambia’s in 1990, such as India, Tanzania and Ghana have been able to increase their HDI to levels above 0.5, which has led them to graduate from low to medium human development category.  A review of the HDI components across the different countries shows that Zambia has done well in terms of increasing its GDP per capita.  However, the main challenge has been to translate this economic growth into reduced poverty levels.


The Way Forward

  1. The Government through the Sixth National Development Plan (2011-2015) is considering implementing practical human capital development and employment-generating interventions, such as infrastructure development and rehabilitation of existing roads, irrigation systems to commensurate the big arable land that Zambia enjoys, and transport and communications. These types of interventions are believed to be implemented relatively quickly and often employ low-skilled workers who are likely to be worst hit by unemployment.
  2. In addition, regulating land ownership and creating a business friendly licensing environment(there is a draft bill), stimulating domestic entrepreneurship through empowerment funds and capital enhancing and providing investment incentives is under serious consideration in the SNDP to increased and diversified growth.
  3. The UN Development Assistance Frameworks for 2011-2015, has been aligned to support the government achieve its objectives through targeted interventions that maximize the impact of national resources and programs in strengthening national intuitions and capacities (UNDAF plans to raise US$ 335 million).
  4. Government in collaboration with cooperating partners is in the process of developing a new Joint Assistance Strategy for Zambia (JASZ) within the framework of the Paris declaration to guide, harmonize and monitor aid effectiveness. The JASZ would be instrumental in raising substantial part of external resources required to stopgap (US$ 2 billion in infrastructure alone).


Achieving the MDGs

  1. Overall Zambia’s progress towards the MDGs is commendable; however, increased action is urgently needed to scale up so as to meet the deadline. Greater efforts will be needed to enhance environmental sustainability, reduce further maternal mortality; address gender inequalities and reduce the unacceptably high poverty rate and inequality within urban and between urban and rural. 
  2. The goal that is lagging behind –MDG 7 ensuring environmental sustainability – requires special attention.
  3. There is a need to accelerate and focus on pressing development challenges facing the country such diversification of the economy, expediting the revised investment bill, regulating land ownership (adopting the draft bill), domestic private economic empowerment through easing access to loan, reduce on external dependence. Promote gender equality.



Sirak Gebrehiwot

UN Communications Officer

UN House

Alick Nkhata Rd

P O Box 31966


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