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Zambia is a landlocked country located in southern Africa with a population of approximately 14.5 million. It is around ten times the size of Ireland. With approximately 60% of the population living below the poverty line, reducing poverty and inequality, especially in rural areas, remains the biggest challenge facing the country. Irish Aid is helping to get more children, especially girls, enrolled in school, supporting extremely poor households to get enough income to meet their basic daily needs and helping ensure that the people of Zambia have a greater say in decisions that affect their lives.

  • Overview
  • Background
  • Our Work
  • Results


Zambia at a glance

Population:  14.5 million
Proportion of population living on less than $1.25 a day:  68.5%
Ranking on UN Human Development Index:  141 of 187
Partner Country since: 1980


Ireland and Zambia

Since opening the Irish Embassy in Zambia in 1980 and setting up the official aid programme Irish Aid has worked with a variety of partner organisations including government, the UN, international research institutions and aid agencies to deliver on our development objectives.

These are set out in our Zambia Country Strategy Paper 2013-2017 which provides the framework for our work.  The Strategy aims to help reduce chronic poverty, vulnerability and inequality in Zambia. Our priorities are to aligned closely with those set out in the Zambian Government’s  Strategic Plan 2011-2015, the Sixth National Development Plan.

Our programme builds on the long tradition of Irish missionary and development work in Zambia. Irish missionary societies were among the main providers of services in health and education throughout much of the twentieth century. Many Irish volunteers and technical advisors have also assisted in Zambia’s development down the years.  

As well as the support we provide through the bilateral aid programme, we support the work of local and international aid agencies and missionary organisations in Zambia through our civil society funding schemes .

We are also working to improve trade relations between Ireland and Zambia and we support a number of research and learning partnerships between higher education institutions in Ireland and Zambia through the Programme for Strategic Co-operation.

A number of Zambian students working with Irish Aid’s partners are also supported every year to pursue courses in third level institutions in Ireland and elsewhere. 



Children Sihuetted in front of a sun-set.


Zambia has been one of the most politically stable and peaceful countries in the southern Africa. It became independent from Great Britain in 1964, and Kenneth Kaunda became its first President under the United National Independence Party (UNIP). 

Multiparty elections, held for the first time in 1991, were won by the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy. The most recent elections, held in 2011, resulted in a peaceful transition of power to a new Government led by President Michael Sata. Following the death of President Sata in late 2014, the ruling Patriotic Front party retained the presidency in the subsequent by-election, with new leader President Edgar Lungu taking up office in January 2015.

Reducing poverty, high unemployment and inequality levels remain the biggest challenges confronting the Government. Improving the quality of public services will be critical, especially in the rural areas where poverty rates are high


Zambia’s economy has experienced steady growth in recent years, with real GDP growth averaging 7% since 2003. Zambia’s current growth rate is 6%. Despite steady growth rates, poverty remains a significant problem in Zambia and income inequality is extremely high.

Zambia has been heavily reliant on copper, which currently generates over 70% of export earnings. However, the economy has potential to grow faster through better use of its underutilised mineral, agricultural and other resources.

Agricultural households tend to be characterised by low productivity. Many are unable to sustain their livelihoods due to poor agricultural practices, geographical isolation and lack of access to agricultural markets and to credit.  

Although other food crops such as cassava are becoming increasingly important, Zambia’s dependence on maize remains very high. The development context in Zambia is changing and aid now accounts for only about 2.9% of the 2015 budget resources, down from 15% in 2010.

TRobert Silanda in the offices of his radio station.


Zambia is ranked 141 out of 187 countries on the United Nation’s Human Development Index 2014 (Ireland is currently ranked 11). It has made progress towards a number of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in access to primary education and reduction of child and maternal mortality.  However, the quality of basic services needs to be improved. Poverty needs to reduce at a faster rate. Other challenges include poor maternal health, low participation by women in decision making and inadequate protection of the environment.

Over 60% of Zambia’s population is defined as poor**. This is especially true of the elderly, women and children, who constitute the most vulnerable. Poverty is significantly worse in rural areas.

A high proportion of households in Zambia, both urban and rural, suffer from either chronic or transitory food insecurity. Northern Province is one of the poorest provinces with the incidence of poverty estimated to be at 75% and over 50% of people living in extreme poverty.

With a prevalence rate of 14.3%, HIV and AIDS continue to compound poverty and vulnerability. There are high geographical and gender variations with women bearing disproportionately higher rates of infection than men.

Zambia is also vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of its geographic exposure, low incomes and dependence on subsistence farming.

 *Source:   World Development Indicators

**Source: Central Statistics office (2011) The 2010 Living Conditions Monitoring Survey

Our Work

Our programme in Zambia is helping to deliver improvements in the lives of poor people, especially in rural areas. In doing so, we work with a variety of partner organisations at national and local level, including government and non-governmental organisations

A rice farmer stands in front of his fields in Kabwe

Helping the poorest households feed and support their families

We are providing assistance to vulnerable households to improve food and nutrition security, especially in one of the poorest parts of the country, Northern Province where we work in partnership with Self Help Africa. This includes support for projects to improve crops and marketing, as well as better nutrition and health.  District Councils are receiving annual support from Irish Aid to deliver better local government services to a population of 450,000 people.

A national programme, supported by Irish Aid, is promoting activities that have proved successful in reducing undernourishment in children. We are also supporting research on how complementary feeding can reduce the risk of malnutrition in young infants.

Getting more children into school especially girls

We have a strong focus on education in recognition of the positive impact it has on economic growth, nutrition, gender equality and preventing and mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS.

Our support is focused on getting more children enrolled in school, especially vulnerable girls. School construction is an important part of our work. We are also helping to improve the quality of education by increasing the number of teachers, better teacher training and providing more learning materials.

Other activities include work on child protection and safety, support for community-run schools and for HIV and AIDS education.  

Protecting the poorest families 

We are helping to reduce the vulnerability of the poorest communities through a social protection programme, which mainly involves the provision of cash transfers to extremely poor households. There are currently over 40,000 beneficiaries in the programme and payments are typically just over €8 per month. We are also supporting the development of a nationwide social protection policy. 

Theresa attends Chifwani primary school

Increasing accountability to citizens

Cutting across all our work is the promotion of greater citizen participation and an accountable government, as well as programmes building the capacity for managing public finances, strengthening  the role of Parliament and promoting a free and fair media.

How we spend our budget

2013 was the first year of the implementation of Irish Aid Zambia's new Country Strategy paper (2013-2017) over the next five years we plan to provide in the region €69 million, subject to availability of budget. We spent in excess of €14 million in support of our development programmes in 2015 (see Summary of Partner Country by Sector - Annex 9 Irish Aid Annual Report 2015

Zambia Expenditure Chart 2014


Zambia’s progress

At a national level, Zambia has made progress in a number of areas:  

  • The 2014 UNDP Human Development Report moves Zambia from the Low to the Medium Human Development category.
  • Over 93% of Zambian children now go on to secondary school. This is an increase of nearly 10% since 2010.
  • New school curriculum – designed to improve quality – rolled out in 2014.
  • 400,000 people have access to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation facilities thanks partly to Irish Aid’s programme in Northern Province.

How we have helped

Irish Aid has played its part in the progress made by Zambia:

  • The number of households who only had one meal per day reduced from 23.5% in 2010 to 15.5% on Social Cash Transfer districts in 2015.
  • Households with access to an improved source of drinking water has increased from24% in 2007 to65% in 2014.
  • There has been some imporvement in the nutritional status of children in Zambi with a decline in stunting (low height for age 45% in 2007 to 40% in 2014.
  • Zambia’s Human Development Index has increased by 32.9% between 1980 and 2013, as a result of ongoing investment in education and health and poverty reduction measures, with the assistance of donors including Ireland.
  • Through Irish Aid’s financial support to the Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan, 97% of primary school aged children now attend school, with almost equal numbers of boys and girls.
  • With Irish Aid support, the Social Cash Transfer Scheme in Zambia has expanded, reaching over 144,000 households in 50 districts at the end of 2014. Results show that there was a reduction in poverty, improvements in food security, health and nutrition amongst the children benefiting from payments.
  • Ireland’s earlier support for a water and sanitation programme is now providing safe clean water to over 113,000 people and improved sanitation for over 80,000 people in Northern Province.

Download the Irish Aid Country Strategy Paper

Irish Aid’s Zambia Country Strategy Paper 2013-2017 sets out how we respond to the changing development environment in Zambia.