High levels of stunting in Zambia mean many children are not getting the best start in life.


In Zambia, the prevalence rate of stunting is 35 per cent (DHS 2018), down from 40 per cent in 2014. A further 9 per cent of children have a low birth weight of less than 2.5 kg. This can be an indication of lower than normal development before birth, which can be a result of maternal malnutrition. In most instances, this is not something that is detected, as a large number of newborns are not weighed at birth. Sub-optimal feeding practices are also highly prevalent.

Key statistics (ZDHS18):

  • 76 per cent of children breasted within one hour of birth
  • 70 per cent of children 0-6 months exclusively breastfed
  • 23 per cent of children 6-23 months are fed with recommended minimum dietary diversity
  • 13 per cent of children 6-23 months are fed with recommended minimum acceptable diet.

Micronutrient deficiencies are also common among children in Zambia. Anaemia, which is a severe public health issue, has not seen any significant reduction among children between the ages of 6 - 59 months over the past two decades, and 6 out of 10 children are anaemic, presenting 58 per cent prevalence of anaemia in children aged 6-59 months.

Additionally, the latest national micronutrient survey indicates a vitamin A deficiency prevalence of 54 per cent among children under five, while the 2013 National Iodine Deficiency Impact Survey found that only 53 per cent of households consume adequately iodised salt.

The solution

UNICEF focuses on a number of strategic areas to address child nutrition, namely stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies and sub optimal infant and young child feeding practices. UNICEF seeks to improve nutrition in Zambia by:

  • Supporting public and policy advocacy for increased investment in the nutrition sector in Zambia;
  • Technical support for the review and updating of strategic plans, guidelines and programme documents;
  • Capacity development and systems strengthening including technical support;
  • Evidence generation to inform programme planning and policy decisions;
  • Assisting parents, caregivers and communities to improve their nutrition, with healthy, diverse and sustainable diets, good care and hygiene practices, and with a focus on the first 1,000 days of life;
  • Coordinating and supporting the implementation of the multisectoral nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific programmes within the context of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) programme (Phase 2) in 17 districts;
  • Setting up monitoring and planning systems on the nutritional status of children.

UNICEF’s strategies for nutrition ensure the Scaling Up Nutrition Framework, which was endorsed by the Government of Zambia in 2011, is aligned to the National Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan and the National First 1,000 Most Critical Days Programme (MCDP). The successful National Food and Nutrition Summit in 2018 supported by UNICEF brought all stakeholders together to commit for strong government leadership and ownership for nutrition work.