Minister of National Development Alexander Chiteme says the government of Zambia is putting people at the centre of sustainable development as they are the most important and valuable resource.

Chiteme, who is leading the Zambian delegation to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development at UN Headquarters in New York, USA, said Zambia’s attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is dependent on inclusivity of all nationals.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly High-Level plenary meeting on the commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD@25), Chiteme said the Zambian government, through the Ministry of National Development Planning, would continue to invest in national and community level programmes aimed at prioritising the health of the people, to fulfill the promise we made to secure individual dignity and human rights, 25 years ago at the inaugural ICPD in Cairo.

“The Government of Zambia recognises that implementing the ICPD’s programme of action is a pathway towards improving its citizens’ quality of life. The principles of the ICPD therefore, continues to be at the centre of Zambia’s development agenda, as attested by the current Seventh National Development Plan-2017-2021, which was formulated using the integrated approach to development in order to achieve the SDGs and (Zambia’) Vision 2030,” Chiteme said, according to a statement from Ministry Spokesperson Chibaula Silwamba, Wednesday.

“Over the past 25 years, Zambia has made progress towards implementing the ICPD Programme of Action. Notable achievements include: decline in maternal mortality ratio from 649 in 1996 to 278 in 2018; a reduction in infant mortality from 107 in 1992 to 42 in 2018; decline in total fertility rate from 6.5 in 1992 to 4.7 in 2018; increased modern contraceptive use from 9 percent in 1992 to 48 percent in 2018 and; declined unmet need for contraception from 30 percent to 20 percent from 1992 to 2018.”

He said despite these achievements, much remains to be done as 54 percent of Zambians, especially women and girls, continue to live in poverty.

Chiteme told UN Member States that President Edgar Lungu, in his capacity as the champion on ending child marriage in Africa, together with the African Union (AU), continued to guide the campaign.

“Through this effort a platform has been created for African leaders, at the highest level, to engage in efforts to end child marriage. As part of efforts to end this harmful practice, government through the ministry of gender, launched the national advocacy and communication strategy 2018–2021, in December, last year, in order to enhance the implementation of national interventions on ending child marriage. Our goal is to reduce child marriage by 40 percent by 2021,” he said.

The Minister said effective communication strategies could forge and maintain connections that would allow Governments, civil society, traditional leaders, cooperating partners and other relevant stakeholders to effectively work towards a common goal of ending child marriage, which is a harmful practice.

He said in line with the principles of the ICPD, the Zambian government was investing in health, education as well as creating opportunities and a supportive environment for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship for young people to access jobs and realise their full potential to maximise the benefits of the demographic dividend.

“Zambia’s commitment has been reaffirmed by His Excellency the President Mr. Edgar Lungu, who has placed maternal health as a key development priority by declaring maternal and perinatal deaths as a public health emergency. I would like to commend the UN system for their continued efforts in facilitating implementation of the ICPDA agenda, and I call for stronger partnership with the international community to achieve sustainable development objectives,” said Chiteme.

The International Conference on Population and Development was a landmark global meeting held in 1994 in Cairo where 179 Governments adopted a revolutionary Programme of Action and called for women’s reproductive health and rights to take centre stage in national and global development efforts.

Chiteme and Muchinga Province Minister Malozo Sichone are participating in the 2019 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Ministerial meeting that has been convened by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The theme for the meeting is “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.