Save the Children Zambia country director Duncan Harvey says the country’s poor ranking in the 2018 African Report on Child Wellbeing shows that the government is not investing enough in children’s development.

According to the African Report on Child Wellbeing, Zambia has been ranked 48 out of 54 African countries and is among the bottom nine ‘least child-friendly’ countries.

In a statement, Tuesday, Harvey said the poor ranking illustrated the Zambian government’s lack of sufficient investment in addressing children’s challenges.

He noted that the 2019 national budget had higher allocations towards debt servicing over health, education and social protection combined.

“The African Report on Child Wellbeing shows that the Zambian government is not doing enough. Save the Children, therefore, calls upon the government to respond effectively to children’s needs and priorities by doing the following: Increase investment in Children, especially in areas of health and nutrition, protection and education. We believe that the 2019 national budget is a missed opportunity to increase investment in children, which will ultimately help improve Zambia’s child friendliness status on the continent. The debt servicing allocation in the 2019 budget is more than the combined allocation to health, education and social protection. Further, we ask the government to budget and expend adequate financial resources to enable children enjoy their rights in line with the international and African Child Rights frameworks the government of Zambia has committed itself to,” Harvey stated.

“The fact that the legal and policy frameworks have been cited as being weak in the least child friendly countries leads us to remind the Zambian government to expedite the enactment of the Child Code Bill. It is our considered view that Zambia’s poor ranking in the mentioned report is a compelling reason for the prompt presentation and enactment of the Children’s Code Bill without delay. The delayed enactment of the Children’s Code Bill has denied many Zambian children who would have benefited from the progressive provisions of the Children’s Code Bill in the last 12 years since the comprehensive review of all child-related legislation begun. It is our sincere hope the government will take time to review this Report and develop clear commitments to create an enabling environment for children to participate in the government’s developmental agenda for Zambia. Domestication of child friendliness requires a meaningful dialogue by stakeholders, including children, appropriate legal and institutional arrangements for government local revenue management, resourcing of child-related sectors and their service delivery and a system of incentives to enforce programmes and policies that promote and protect children.”

He said the Report also indicated that Zambia has invested the least in education, health and wellbeing, despite the prevalence of multiple deprivations amongst their children.

“Page xxiii of the Report indicates that ‘the least child-friendly governments at the bottom of the 2018 table comprise South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Zambia, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Eritrea. The legal and policy framework and the enforcement mechanisms in most of these countries remain inadequate and weak. They also invest the least in education, health and wellbeing, despite the prevalence of multiple deprivations amongst their children.’ As the world leading independent organisation for children, Save the Children supports government and other stakeholders to prioritise the rights of children, especially their right to basic services and their right to participate in civic space. The African Report on Child Wellbeing highlights the situation faced by children in Zambia and the many challenges they continue to face. Why is Zambia’s performance score and ranking very low? With regards to legal protection of children, Zambia has yet to adopt several child-related laws, such as the Optional Protocol to CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution, and pornography,” stated Harvey.

“The Optional Protocol to CRC on insolvent of children in armed conflict; and the Optional Protocol to CRC on communications procedure. The minimum age of criminal responsibility is 8 years, which is below the recommended 12 years. Minimum age of marriage both for boys and girls is set at 16, below the endorsed age 18. Zambia has the 2nd lowest level of birth registration in Africa – only 11.3 per cent of the children under the age of 5 registered with the civil authorities. Education spending is only 1.1 percent of GDP– the lowest in Africa. The average number of students per teacher in Zambia is 48:1, which is above the recommended level 40:1. The proportion of population living below US $1.90 a day is about 58 per cent – among the ten highest in Africa. The prevalence of chronic malnutrition (stunting) is among the ten highest in Africa – two in every five children aged below five are stunted.”