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Zambia achieved lower middle-income status in 2011 after years of impressive economic performance. Yet more than half of its population still lives below the poverty line. A now deteriorating economy risks puts undermining government’s efforts at risk to deliver social services, alleviate poverty, reduce malnutrition and achieve zero hunger.  This is especially true in rural areas, where most people of them rely on subsistence agriculture and are exposed to the effects of climate change.

Zambia’s malnutrition rates remain among the highest in the world. The country ranked 143 of 189 in the 2019 Human Development Index , with 48 percent of the population unable to meet their minimum calories requirements, more than one-third of children under five years stunted and more than half suffering from iron deficiency. Limited knowledge of nutrition, poor feeding practices and limited and unhealthy diets are the main impairing contributing factors.

While food production at the national level routinely exceeds domestic requirements, the availability of and access to adequate nutritious food remains a challenge for many poor households, which is compounded by the country’s over-reliance on maize. Overweight and obesity, especially among women, is a growing problem attributed to high consumption of unhealthy diets.

Zambia’s 1.5 million smallholder farmers producing most of the domestic food supplies are extremely vulnerable to climatic shocks, as they predominately depend on rain-fed agriculture. Furthermore, they face limited access to high quality inputs, climate and post-harvest management information, sustainable markets and financial services. With climate change emerging as one of the biggest threats in Zambia, weather extremes of increased frequency, intensity and magnitude over the last few decades are negatively impacting agriculture and increasing food insecurity.

Gender inequality is one of the main problems in the country, affecting poverty and food insecurity. Poverty rates generally higher among households headed by women. While women constitute 64 percent of the rural population and approximately 80 percent of food producers, poverty rates generally higher among households headed by women (56.7 percent).

Zambia currently hosts about 76,000 refugees and asylum seekers across the country. Over 14,000 refugees reside in Mantapala Refugee Settlement. Most of them (80 percent) are women and children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and require humanitarian assistance to survive.

Since 1967, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been a strategic partner to the Government for the achievement of zero hunger. In recent years, it has driven innovation and positive change in the areas of disaster risk management, smallholder farmer support, school feeding and social protection. WFP is currently focusing its efforts on strengthening national systems and capacities and providing support for programmes and coordination in pursuit of a food-secure Zambiaby 2030.

16.2 million
of children under 5 are stunted
of people live in poverty

What the World Food Programme is doing in Zambia

  • Nutrition

    WFP in Zambia hosts and co-facilitates the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Business Network. The Network – comprising 60 organizations, including at least 30 local businesses – aims to increase awareness and the demand for nutritious products; strengthen commercial engagement within the nutrition marketplace; and improve the regulatory environment for nutrition.
  • Building resilience and responses to climate change

    Through the Rural Resilience Initiative (R4), WFP in Zambia is helping smallholder farmers to address the risks posed by climate change-related events, such as drought. This is done through conservation agriculture activities supported by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Targeted smallholder families are equipped with strategies to help build resilience over time and escape poverty and food and nutrition insecurity.
  • Response to El Niño

    Developed with support from WFP and other agencies to respond to the recent El Niño weather event, the Government’s Integrated Emergency Response Programme includes interventions such as social cash transfers, maize distribution, emergency school feeding, nutrition surveillance and emergency supplementary and therapeutic feeding for infants and children under 5.

Zambia news releases

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Partners and Donors

  • Government of Zambia
    Private Donors
  • Food for Peace



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