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Western Province: Towards Making Every Pregnancy and Childbirth Safe; and Securing Health and Wellbeing for Every Child

Over the last decade, Zambia has made significant strides towards improving health and nutrition outcomes for women, adolescents and children. However, significant inequalities remain by gender, wealth quintile, rural-urban divide and age groups; all of which contribute to poor human development indicators across the country.

According to the 2020 Human Development Report, Zambia’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) - a composite measure of gender inequalities in reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity - stands at a value of 0.539, ranking it 137 out of 162 countries. Additionally, Health Outcome Indicators of infant and child health highlight that 40.9 per cent of children in Zambia suffer from at least three deprivations or more (e.g. lacking access to nutrition, education, health, water, sanitation, adequate housing).

Through ongoing technical and financial support from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) supported Family Planning; Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health; and Nutrition Programme through UNFPA and UNICEF, Western Province has recorded significant milestones towards improved health outcomes for women, newborns and adolescents, especially those in underserved communities.

With 12 level-one hospitals, 2 level two hospitals and 307 health centres/health posts, Western Province has over the last 3 years recorded the following results:

  • Family planning attendance increased from 67,120 in 2017 to 248, 642 in 2020;
  • Maternal deaths reduced nearly 50%, from a headcount of 43 in 2017 to 24 in 2020;
  • Improved capacity of health staff to deliver integrated sexual reproductive health and newborn care, thus reducing the number of referrals to the district hospitals;
  • Early initiation of ante-retroviral treatment (ART) for mothers and newborns living with HIV
  • As well as increased awareness among pregnant women and mothers on infant and young child feeding.

During a courtesy visit to Hon. Mr Astely Kapelwa Mbangweta, Provincial Minister Western Province, the FCDO Team Leader for Governance, Political and Human Development as well as the UNFPA Zambia Representative Ms. Gift Malunga acknowledged the invaluable cooperation between the Government of Zambia, the Government of the United Kingdom, and the UN System in Zambia and partners, towards improving health, wellbeing, and development outcomes for women, adolescents and children in Western Province.

The meeting further underlined that, despite significant progress made, many challenges remain, affecting vulnerable populations the most, especially women and girls. Western Province has:

  • The highest rate of poverty, with 82 out of every 100 people living in poverty;
  • The lowest rate of family planning use, with only 3 in 10 (30%) of married women using a modern method of contraception, and one in four having an unmet need for family planning;
  • The second highest adolescent pregnancy rate in Zambia, as 1 in 3 female adolescents (ages 15 to19) have had a live birth;
  • Further, in relation to nutrition outcomes, Western Province is home to 6% of Zambia’s malnourished children under age 5, and its mortality rate for children under age 5 is 73 per 1,000 live births.

The Minister acknowledged the ongoing support provided through FCDO, which has been key towards addressing many of the key development challenges in the Province, making a real difference in the lives of marginalized populations. He further underscored that much more needs to be done to address Gender-Based Violence in the Province, as well as targeted investments to reach women and girls in hard to reach areas frequently affected by drought and floods.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the UN System, represented by UNFPA, UNICEF, WFP and FAO, reaffirmed commitment to sustain partnership with the Government of Zambia and to Western Province in particular, in line with the current UN Sustainable Development Partnership Framework (UNSDPF) (2016-2022).