Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Ask Zambia about the Exposure of Children to Lead Contamination in Mines and about Child Marriage
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined fifth to seventh periodic report of Zambia, with Committee Experts asking about children exposed to lead contamination in mines and about customary laws which allowed child marriage.
A Committee Expert said it was exciting to note that the bill on the children’s code was being finalised, something that the Committee had been awaiting for years.
Gehad Madi, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Zambia, said the Committee was seriously concerned about the use of child labour in artisan mining and the exposure of these children to high-level lead contamination. How was the State party testing and treating children from lead poisoning? How were children being protected, and what remedies were provided for those who became disabled due to lead poisoning or their involvement in mining?
Another Expert noted that the marriage act set the age of marriage at 21 years, yet recognised the practice of customary marriage, which permitted child marriage when the child hit puberty. What was being done to address these cultural traditions and beliefs which existed in Zambian society, particularly in rural areas?
Responding to questions on child labour, the delegation said Zambia had mobilised resources from the World Bank, which were intended to address the exposure of children to high levels of lead. The Government was working closely with partners to implement interventions aimed at addressing the problems which were the result of lead contamination. Heath-related interventions included the blood screening of children, with those found to have a high level of lead provided with the appropriate treatment.
With respect to child marriage, the delegation said there were provisions in the law which indicated that customary law was acceptable in Zambia. The Zambian Law Commission was managing the process to ensure a way to eliminate the marriage of children under the age of 18. Consensus had been reached with traditional leaders that there was a need to do away with child marriage, however, this needed to be formalised. The President of Zambia was currently the champion of ending child marriage under the African Union, with this being a high priority under his leadership.
Introducing the report, Mulambo Haimbe, Minister of Justice of Zambia and head of the delegation, said Zambia had held Presidential and Parliamentary elections in August 2021, resulting in the election of the new President and his administration, now referred to as the new dawn government. Zambia had initiated the process of constitutional review, which would focus on developing the most effective approaches toward constitutional reform and an enhanced bill of rights, which would incorporate the rights of children. The child code bill 2022 had also been approved and was awaiting presentation to the full cabinet, before submission to parliament.
Mr. Haimbe said that despite the progressive development highlighted, there had been challenges, including limited infrastructure in the education and health sectors; inadequate human resources, in the health, education and the social protection sectors; and high child poverty levels.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Madi noted the good intention of the new dawn government to make a complete turnaround for the enhancement and protection of children’s rights in Zambia. The age of criminal responsibility remained a serious issue which needed to be attended to, as was the issue of children being recruited in the army under the age of 18. He expressed hope that next time they met, all issues would be resolved.
Mr. Haimbe thanked the Committee for the constructive and comprehensive dialogue. The process had been an eye opener, as there were clearly areas where lapses needed to be addressed. The new dawn government was committed to achieving the closure of many items which needed to be addressed and had the intention of making as many strides as possible for the justice of all Zambians, including children. Zambia looked forward to the next meeting with the Committee.
Mikiko Otani, Committee Chair, thanked the delegation and extended best wishes to the children of Zambia.
The delegation of Zambia consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services; and the Permanent Mission of Zambia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Zambia at the end of its ninetieth session on 3 June. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here , while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 24 May at 3 p.m. to consider the combined sixth and seventh periodic report of Chile (CRC/C/CHL/6-7).
The Committee has before it the combined fifth to seventh periodic report of Zambia (CRC/C/ZMB/5-7).
Presentation of Report
MULAMBO HAIMBE, Minister of Justice of Zambia and head of the delegation, said Zambia had held Presidential and Parliamentary elections in August 2021, resulting in the election of the new President and his administration. This administration was now referred to as the new dawn government, as a symbol of the renewed trust in the legal and institutional framework of Zambia.
The Zambian Government remained committed to the protection and promotion of children's rights. Zambia had initiated the process of constitutional review, which would focus on developing the most effective approaches toward constitutional reform and an enhanced bill of rights, which would incorporate the rights of children. Zambia had also launched the eighth national development plan, which incorporated the globally accepted Sustainable Development Goals and took into account obligations set out under the Convention.
Mr. Haimbe said the child code bill 2022 had also been approved and was awaiting presentation to the full cabinet, before submission to parliament. The intention was to have the bill tabled before parliament during its June 2022 sitting, with the bill potentially able to be in force and assented by September 2022. The enactment of the social workers association of Zambia act 2022 aimed to regulate and promote professional social work practice in Zambia, which was critical for the care and protection of children.
Another development was the introduction of free education for primary and secondary schooling. To support this, the Government was recruiting 30,000 teachers for early childhood, primary and secondary schools. The school grant was expanded both in terms of amount and reach, covering public, community, and grant-aided schools. The compensatory grants to schools covered school costs such as uniforms, shoes, menstrual hygiene supplies for girls and school supplies. Through the rollout of the free education policy, there had been a circa 300 per cent increase in the disbursement of school grants for primary schools, leading to increased enrolment and school retention rates. The free education policy aimed to ensure that primary and secondary education was free, without hidden costs.
The Government was further recruiting more than 11,000 health workers to ensure the adequacy of the health workforce, aimed at a sustained commitment to realising universal health coverage. The State party had placed emphasis on fiscal decentralisation to sub-district levels through a constituency development fund, thereby taking development closer to the people. This aimed to ensure access to quality health services and personnel, particularly in rural areas.
Mr. Haimbe said that despite the progressive development highlighted, there had been challenges, including limited infrastructure in the education and health sectors; limited fiscal space for implementation; inadequate human resources, in the health, education and the social protection sectors; and high child poverty levels. He pledged Zambia’s commitment towards compliance with its international obligations.
Questions by Committee Experts
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Zambia, said the Committee was counting on the new dawn government to protect and enhance children’s rights in Zambia. Mr. Madi expressed concern that Zambia had not ratified the three Optional Protocols to the Convention and asked what steps needed to be taken to ratify these Optional Protocols? There was also concern that the defence act allowed the recruitment of children under the age of 18 in the army. Was the current Government preparing a new child policy, or at least extending the current one which had expired? Had the national development plan been adopted already? If so, did it include a strategy for early childhood development and childhood participation? What measures had been taken to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the budget for children? What measures were in place to ensure that budgetary lines for children were protected?
It was understood that the State party had shifted the responsibility for the coordination of the implementation of the Convention in 2014; was the new Government retaining this mandate, and did the Ministry have authority to coordinate the implementation of the Convention? What were the reasons for suspending the National Child Council? Did the Human Rights Commission have sufficient resources to execute its functions, and address complaints by children? What measures were being taken to disseminate the Convention and the Committee’s concluding observations among the general public, in particular children? What training programmes were in place for professionals working with children, including judiciary and health professionals?
Mr. Madi said the Committee was seriously concerned about the use of child labour in artisan mining and the exposure of these children to high-level lead contamination. Information had also been received that some of these mines were unlicensed. How was the State party testing and treating children from lead poisoning? How were children being protected, and what remedies were provided for those who became disabled due to lead poisoning or their involvement in mining? Was there any reason for delaying the visit of the Special Rapporteur on toxic waste?
Mr. Madi noted that poverty was the main reason for placing children in residential care; what measures were being taken to eradicate poverty? What measures were being taken to ban the placement of children under the age of three in children’s homes? What was being done to review the placement of children in institutions and foster care, and what efforts were being made to reunite children with their families? Till what age were children allowed to be incarcerated with their parents? What facilities and services were provided to these children while in detention? What were the current standards of adoption?
A Committee Expert welcomed the positive remarks made by the head of the delegation. It was exciting to note that the bill on the children’s code was being finalised, something that the Committee had been awaiting for years. It was also exciting to see progress on the marriage act. What was the timeline on the enactment of this bill? What was being done to criminalise child marriage and provide survivors of child marriage with support services? The Expert noted that discriminatory practices still existed in Zambia. What measures were being taken to recognise the supremacy of the constitution and to forbid children from being married below the legal age?
What measures were being put in place to provide access to education, healthcare and social services to children with disabilities, migrant children and asylum-seeking children? What measures were being taken to provide systematic training to all professional in order to determine the best interests of the child?
The Expert noted that children in Zambia continued to suffer from corporal punishment in the home, school and institutions, with the legal framework lacking information around corporal punishment. The Committee had consistently recommended that corporal punishment be ended by law; could the delegation elaborate on what had been done to further this? What was being done to promote positive, non-violent forms of child-rearing?
Despite the amendments to the Penal Code, there were still widespread acts of sexual violence. Were awareness raising measures being taken to combat acts of child abuse, including incest and rape? What policies were in place to set standards and create accountability for child exploitation in the travel and tourism industry? The marriage act set the age of marriage at 21 years, yet recognised the practice of customary marriage, which permitted child marriage when the child hit puberty. What was being done to address these cultural traditions and beliefs which existed in Zambian society, particularly in rural areas? Could insights be shared into the lives of lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex children in Zambia?
A Committee Expert asked about birth registration, noting this was a problem in Zambia. Eleven per cent of children under the age of five were registered in the system, with only four percent of these children having a birth certificate. What measures were being taken to increase the civil registration of children, and to fix the disparity between urban and rural areas? When there was no identification for the person declaring the birth, what measures were taken to allow the child to be registered? Were there awareness raising campaigns in place on the importance of birth certificates? What measures were being taken to inform mothers of the process, to allow them to register their children?
Were there any plans to continue with the digitisation of data on civil status? What was being done to ensure access to citizenship? What was the financing from the State for birth registration? Was this done by donors, and was the State matching donations? Were people able to obtain birth certificates through the roaming courthouses? During the pandemic, what measures were taken to declare the birth of children? Were there plans to ratify the convention on the reduction of statelessness?
Responses by the Delegation
MULAMBO HAIMBE, Minister of Justice of Zambia and head of the delegation, noted the hope of the Committee for the speedy adoption of the bill on the child code, confirming this would occur. Zambia was committed to ensuring that this bill would be enacted at the next session of parliament. Regarding the Optional Protocols, Zambia had begun the process of ratifying them. Mr. Haimbe confirmed that the defence act was under review and was in the early stages of re-enactment. Regarding the expiry of the national policy on children’s rights, there were plans currently underway for its review. A multi-sectoral approach was being taken in the eighth national plan, including on the topic of decentralisation.
Zambia had taken measures to ensure that there were budgetary provisions to address issues regarding children, the delegation said. There were several budget lines, including one for adoption and one for juvenile delinquency, among others, to ensure increased care for children in the country. In 2021, a gazette notice was issued to streamline mandates for various ministries, and the Ministry of Community Development was assigned several child-related portfolios. Regarding ratifications of all national instruments relating to the rights of the child, the Ministry of Development had the primary role on this. A child safeguarding framework had been developed, which would provide procedures and practices for organizations working with children, including institutions.
The delegation noted the concern raised about the police units not been fully independent, saying that the goal was to de-link these police units. Under the office of the public protector, a desk had been created to address issues on children’s rights. The need for true independence for the Human Rights Commission was noted. This was being addressed by the new dawn government.
Zambia had been training social workers, the police and the judiciary through child justice forums since 2020. In 2021, a total of 250 social workers had been trained, which was half the number of the workforce that required training. Dissemination materials including booklets and leaflets had been obtained, and children’s issues and rights were being discussed on television. On the involvement of civil society, the delegation said the national coordination committee had been revamped, and provisions had been made for enhanced coordination.
On questions on child labour and the high levels of lead contamination, Zambia had mobilised resources from the World Bank, which were intended to address the exposure of children to high levels of lead. The Government was working closely with partners to implement interventions aimed at addressing the problems which were the result of lead contamination. Heath-related interventions included the blood screening of children, with those found to have a high level of lead provided with the appropriate treatment. Discussions were taking place on compensating children who had been impacted by raising awareness on the negative environmental issues occurring in the country.
Foster care guidelines were in place and operational, and foster care provisions were given in the act on juveniles. Some foster care cases had led to adoptions. The current law provided that children needed to remain with their mothers until the age of at least four years. However, a child could be removed from the parents if the parent had become incarcerated, and it was in the best interest of the child for them to be placed in foster care as an alternative. Placing children in facilities was the last resort; it was always the aim to place the children with relatives if possible.
There were variations in the laws relating to the definition of the child. There was a provision in the marriage act, which declared marriages void if the child was under the age of 16. The bill on the child code defined a child as any person under the age of 18, and the marriage act would be aligned with this. The Penal Code was under review and it would be aligned with this age. The delegation said it could not provide exact timelines, but assured that work was underway to address this irregularity. From a policy perspective, Zambia did not support child marriage practices, and efforts were being made to begin engagement with traditional leaders to combat this bad traditional practice. The political will existed to rid the country of this scourge.
The delegation said that in the past, migrant children had mainly been under the domain of immigration. However, a new approach existed, whereby if a child was trying to enter the country, the child was now brought to the care and protection of social workers. Appropriate measures would be taken to locate their families, and protect these children against trafficking. There were around six facilities or safety shelters in Zambia where children were taken once they were found. Most of the children came from neighbouring countries, including Tanzania and Somalia. These measures ensured that no child was left unattended to or in a discriminatory situation.
When it came to disability, Zambia had been besieged by challenges. It was planning to hold a symposium on how to best counter the challenges faced by children with disabilities, including those with albinism. The bill on the children’s code had adopted the best interest of the child principle, and there was an effort to develop procedures for child participation.
Graduates from police academies were given information on how to protect children in their day-to-day functions. There was a lack of clear provisions which explicitly prohibited corporal punishment. The bill on the children’s code now had a provision on the complete abolition of corporal punishment in all settings. The education sector trained guidance counsellors on non-violent approaches in their handling of children. These counsellors then became non-violence agents and leaders within their schools, helping to make schools a safe place for children. There were efforts to build the capacity of organizations and ensure that children were growing up in a non-violent environment.
Zambia had developed a national prevention and response plan to end violence against children. The plan, which was designed to involve all stakeholders in ending violence against children, was currently in operation and had been launched at the national and provincial levels. The Child Online Protection Strategy had also been launched to protect violence against children from occurring online. The Zambian police had a child support unit and a victim support unit, which ensured that perpetrators of gender-based violence were apprehended.
Regarding surgical procedures on intersex children, consent was needed for procedures to be carried out. There was still a difficult environment in the country regarding how lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and intersex rights were addressed. While there was engagement, this was still a work in progress.
On birth registration, the delegation said that the statistics which had been cited on birth registration were low. The State party wished to inform the Committee that after the expiry of the birth registration strategy, a review was being undertaken to determine what worked and what did not, with these factors being brought forward to the new strategy. Zambia was targeting the goal of 50 per cent birth registration by the end of 2025. This meant health facilities needed to become part of the registration process so that registration took place when the child was born. A campaign would be run to compel everyone to register their children, with the goal of over performing on the 50 per cent target.
Initially there was only one central place for birth certificates; however, this was now being decentralised to rural areas to make birth registration easier and more accessible.
A memorandum had been signed to enhance the registration of births in health facilities. Efforts were being made to ensure interoperability between the health management information system, and the system being used for the civil registry. The digitisation process was ongoing, and rural areas were being prioritised.
During the pandemic, Zambia had developed guidelines on how health services would continue to be provided, and how patients would continue to be protected while accessing these services, to ensure the services were not drastically affected by the pandemic. The delegation was not aware of the roaming courts playing any part in enhancing the process of registration. The State party did not have any plans at this stage to ratify the convention on reducing statelessness, but recognised the need to address this. The bill on the children’s code provided a provision on birth registration at birth. The delegation confirmed that the national development plan incorporated early childhood development.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked if child participants were consulted on legislative reforms? What was being done to address child exploitation in the tourism industry? Could the delegation further clarify whether under customary marriage, marriage was allowed when puberty was entered into?
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Zambia, noted that many of the answers to the questions depended on the enactment of the bill on the children’s code. Regarding coordination, which was the sole Ministry or governmental department responsible for the coordination of the implementation of the Convention in Zambia?
A Committee Expert asked about the amount of the budget earmarked for birth registration? How were civil status issues addressed in the communities? In the event there was no identification card when seeking registration, how was the child’s birth registered?
A Committee Expert asked if child marriage was an offense under the law? If this was the case, who was punished?
Mr. Madi asked about children with disabilities, noting there were several laws and policies on disabilities. Yet their implementation was limited, and knowledge of these acts among the public was limited. What measures were being taken by the Government to introduce such laws and policies to the public at large?
Disaggregated data on children with disabilities was scarce. What measures were being taken to address this issue? What efforts were being taken to train teachers, and provide teaching and learning materials for children with disabilities? What steps were being taken to increase the access of children with disabilities to rehabilitation centres? What measures were in place to prevent placing children with disabilities in institutions?
A Committee Expert noted that progress had been made, but Zambia still faced challenges regarding child mortality, with this rate being high for children under the age of five. These children were dying of preventable diseases, including malaria. How did Zambia ensure that the population had access to mosquito nets which were used for protection? Where were the 11,000 healthcare professionals being trained? Did schools have healthcare officials? What were the measures being taken to improve child nutrition and to broaden the scope of the vitamin A supplements which were being distributed? What was being done to fight hunger? Were there measures aimed at sustainable food support?
How were Zambia’s vaccination supplies and what was the rate of vaccination coverage in the country? What measures were being taken to combat the position of midwives who promoted formula? Did those below 18 years of age have access to reproductive health, including condoms? How did teens and adolescents access health care?
The Expert noted that alcohol consumption had increased among the young. What could be done to provide information to these children, and how could they be taken care of? Were there teams dedicated to helping children in this situation. What was the situation of HIV/AIDS programmes? Was there screening for children under the age of two? Concerning lead poisoning, were there measures available for free screening and treatment for children?
A Committee Expert noted that 493 low-cost satellite centres had been established, asking how many children were receiving the services of these centres? What percentage of children who needed to be in early childhood development centres were receiving it? Had any assessment been undertaken on the quality of these services? There had been an indication that budget allocation for education had decreased between 2016 and 2021, however, there had been a massive increase this year in school grants. Could the delegation explain this picture and provide some context?
Was it fair to say that there was an over-reliance on boarding schools in Zambia? What was being done to ensure that girls who got pregnant or gave birth were able to continue their education in mainstream schools? What was happening to cause dropouts before the pandemic, and how had the pandemic exacerbated this situation?
The Expert noted that many children of refugees sometimes struggled to access public services; what was the country’s policy on this, and what were the impediments? What was being done when the age of a migrant child was unknown? What was the country’s policy on detention of child migrants, and what steps were being taken in this regard? What was the current law on statelessness?
How was Zambia addressing the worst forms of child labour, particularly in agriculture and child exploitation?
It was concerning that children were not receiving free legal aid; had the budget for this been approved? Regarding the minimum age of criminal responsibility, this was still set at eight which was low. What was being done to resolve this? What was being done about non-custodial measures, both at the pretrial phase and at sentencing? The Expert asked about measures taken to protect child victims in criminal justice proceedings. Were video recordings used to protect evidence? Were child-friendly procedures consistently used throughout the process?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said Zambia had engaged children across the country to provide views to be adopted within the eighth national development plan. This had been done in collaboration with civil society. When it came to children, Zambia’s laws initially looked for kinship care as a top priority. Where this was not possible, the next alternative was foster care or adoption. If this was not possible, institutionalisation of the child was the last resort. Regarding a visit by the Special Rapporteur on toxic waste, there were no restrictions in Zambia to his visit. Another request should be put in during the meeting and it would be attended to.
Zambia was reviewing numerous policies and looked on this as a key time to maximise children’s participation. Children had been engaged, and child participation was specified in the child code bill. The child participation framework was being developed, which would outline how children would be involved. When developing the eighth national development plan, children around the country were consulted for their views. The delegation said that while the national tourism policy did seek to address child exploitation in the tourism sector, not a lot had been done to promote the clause in that policy. However, a lot of work had been done to address sexual exploitation. The delegation noted that the tourism sector would need to be included further, as there was a growing concern in this space regarding the growing number of child exploitation cases.
With respect to customary law, which indicated that once a child reached puberty, they could get married, there were provisions in the law which indicated that customary law was acceptable in Zambia. The Zambian Law Commission was managing the process to ensure a way to eliminate the marriage of children under the age of 18; there would be a harmonisation of the age of marriage. Consensus had been reached with traditional leaders that there was a need to do away with child marriage, however, this needed to be formalised. The national position was to try to do away with the customary practice, and the President of Zambia was currently the champion of ending child marriages under the African Union, with this being a high priority under his leadership.
The child code bill would be a milestone in the legislative procedures and provisions in the child sector. This would be a complete turnaround on how issues were being handled in the country. Zambia was aware of the opportunity to plan how the children’s code bill would be rolled out into the 2023 budget cycle and subsequent cycles. There was a timeline for ratifying the Optional Protocols; once legal opinion had been sought, the Optional Protocols would be ratified within a three-month period.
Zambia had not earmarked a substantial amount in the budget for birth registration; however, the Government was leveraging for certain strategies to be put in place. Zambia was mainstreaming birth registration into the health system and had embarked on mobile registration at satellite centres, where birth registration was taking place. Zambia was working through an awareness campaign, highlighting the importance of creating an identity for every child in the country. In the case of a teenage mother who had not yet obtained an identification, these women could be accompanied by their parents, whose identification would serve for registration.
There was no express approach in laws which criminalised child marriage. However, this was addressed in the education act, which stated that if a learner was removed from school to get married, this was a criminal act. The Penal Code also specified that if a man had relations with a child, this was a criminal act. The adult would be held criminally responsible for those offences.
A lot needed to be done for persons with disabilities. Regarding data on disability, Zambia had created a national disability management system, which was the anchor instrument to register and document persons with disabilities in the country. Currently, more than 35,000 persons with disabilities had been registered. In 2015, Zambia undertook the first national disability survey, and was able to record that over 7 per cent of the population was living with a disability. The survey also highlighted a challenge as many persons with disabilities were hidden from the general populace. To counteract this issue, a deliberate policy was introduced to allow increased funding to households with persons with disabilities, which encouraged more people to come forward and report their disabilities. This led to more children with disabilities being recorded and registered.
Zambia had tried to be responsive to the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, including in the classroom, roads and bathrooms. Children in institutions were not eligible to access certain programmes, to encourage their families to raise them within their own homes.
Improvements had been seen over the past few years in the area of under-five mortalities. Neo-natal deaths had increased, and this was receiving special attention, through skills improvement and increased medical equipment. Child health remained a major priority in Zambia. Clinics for under-five children had been established which looked at the health of children, including vaccines, de-worming, and the supplementation of vitamin A. The approach in improving the health of children in Zambia was firmly anchored in the primary healthcare approach, which considered community engagement as a key pillar.
Malaria remained one of the major public health challenges in the country. There was a well-established national malaria programme, which included mass distribution of insecticide treated nets, with a focus on children under five years of age, and pregnant women. Radio programmes highlighted the correct use of nets, and a wide range of materials were distributed to the community, to explain how they were able to protect themselves against malaria.
The Government had set a goal of having a health facility within five kilometres of every person in Zambia; however, at this stage, this goal had fallen short. Six hundred and fifty health posts had been constructed across Zambia, with the majority being in rural areas. This project had greatly improved access to health facilities. The Government continued to implement a robust infrastructure development programme. The Ministry of Health recently opened the first specialised heart hospital in the country’s capital, which helped treat cases which had previously needed to be treated abroad. A target had been set to recruit 30,000 healthcare workers, with 25,000 workers ultimately recruited, which had helped to boost healthcare facilities.
The new dawn government had made further progress in recruiting health personnel, with a process currently underway to recruit more than 11,000 healthcare workers to be absorbed into the public sector. The proliferation of private training institutions did raise questions on standards; before any institution was established, a proper assessment of their capacity needed to be made to ensure they could offer the correct training to the highest possible standards. A national standard curriculum was also in place, which was set up by the nurses and midwifery council.
Zambia had one of the highest stunting levels in the African region. Progress had been made; however, the current rate of 35 per cent was still very high. Several multisectoral measures were in place to address the levels of malnutrition. Interventions ranged from aspects of food security, emphasising the importance of good agricultural practices at a household level, to the promotion of nutritious, locally available foods. Currently, a revision was underway on the marketing of food products to young children. The delegation said that while condoms were not distributed in schools, adolescents had access to condoms in health facilities.
There had been a rise in substance abuse among adolescents and young adults. Rehabilitation facilities were accessible but were not yet able to run comprehensive programmes on addressing substance abuse. Communities had been engaged, which meant that rehabilitation programmes would start running. This programme was in its infancy and required technical expertise and financial resources. Regarding HIV in children, a robust programme on mother to child transmission was in place, with significant progress made. Transmission had been reduced from 12 per cent, to 8 per cent.
A lot needed to be put in place when it came to lifting the quality of education in Zambia. A huge number of children had been affected prior to, and after COVID. There were still high rates of school dropouts, which the State had put in interventions to address. One of these was the Zambia Education project, which was being supported by the World Bank, focusing on teacher quality, learning materials, and construction of school infrastructure. There was a downflow of funding, however, the new dawn government had seen a clear shift in the increase in budget for education, which could be seen in the dispersal of grants. The budgetary aspirations in alignment with the new dawn government was free education for all children, at both primary and secondary education.
The school dropout rates remained high, as was the high rate of pregnancy among girls. However, a high number of these girls were still returning to school.
MULAMBO HAIMBE, Minister of Justice of Zambia and head of the delegation, said the new dawn government placed a premium on education, and aimed to allocate a higher level of GDP towards education in the budget.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked what was being done to combat obstetric fistula? Were there specialised child psychologists and psychiatrists? Did pregnant women receive the three doses of malaria medication?
Anther Committee Expert requested more information about the healthcare workers being hired, asking how many of these workers had training in children specifically? Were there any specific demographics on adolescents who were falling into drug abuse? Were studies being conducted into this?
One Committee Expert noted that the registration rate for early childhood was weaker in remote areas, compared to urban areas, as were budget allocations. What was the strategy being developed to address this? What measures were being taken by the Government to respond to the needs of certain groups, including girls, who did not wish to follow a traditional academic path?
A Committee Expert asked who did consent come from in the case of intersex children? Was this from the parent, or the child? Regarding corporal punishment, what other measures had been implemented aside from legislative measures? Was there a particular reason that condoms were not provided in schools?
Another Committee Expert asked what happened to children when they were not held in penitentiary facilities with their parents? What were the statistics on the number of children in prison with their parents?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said a policy of social protection was provided for migrant children. This ensured that these children were separated from adults and put into the social welfare system, for their proper care and protection. Children in these facilities accessed education facilities the same way as any other child. Regarding the law on statelessness, Zambia was a State party to the convention on stateless persons, however, this had not yet been domesticated. There was no specific law in Zambia which dealt with statelessness, however, the refugee act provided for the registration of refugees.
The delegation confirmed that the legal aid act had been revised, and a unit relating specifically to children had been established. The commitment to legal aid within the Zambian Government was very high, with the current act creating increased funding for legal aid. The legal aid board was able to provide generic legal services to all those who required it. A project was underway which imbedded legal aid desks in prisons, with a focus on increasing access to justice.
MULAMBO HAIMBE, Minister of Justice of Zambia and head of the delegation, said that until the child code bill was enacted, the age of criminal responsibility remained at the age of eight; however, the State was focused on removing this, with the draft providing for 14 years, although the exact age was still to be determined. Zambia was focusing on awareness-raising programmes which aimed to educate children to ensure they did not find themselves in conflict with the law. Video recordings were provided for child witnesses, and children were also permitted to provide evidence through an intermediary. The State had created a case-management protocol which was being used to deal with a myriad of issues relating to children, including children in conflict with the law.
The delegation said that early pregnancy remained a huge public health problem in Zambia, accounting for 29 per cent of pregnancies recorded in the country. As a consequence of these pregnancies, there was the problem of obstetric fistula. Traditionally, obstetric fistula repair camps had been conducted over the years. However, this was not sustainable in the long term due to expense, and the delay of access to services. To combat this, the Ministry of Health had improved the capacity of several obstetricians and trained fistula surgeons in provincial centres.
Mental health services were provided to some extent. Breast feeding programmes were an important aspect of promoting good nutrition in children. On operations for intersex children, consent was required on behalf of the child who was 18 years or below. However, there had been debates to look at the age of consent for the provision of health services. Consultation had been held with religious leaders and the children themselves to look at the policy on the age of consent, with this process expected to be concluded over the next few months.
The delegation said there was indeed a disparity between the urban and the rural set up for birth registration, with efforts being made to breach the gap. Awareness raising campaigns on the importance of birth registration were taking place in the rural areas. There had been a strain on the birth registration budget, but steps were being taken to pool resources in this area.
For girls who did not wish to take an academic pathway, an alternative vocational pathway was available. Community skills centres had been established, which allowed girls who had not progressed academically to undertake an alternative pathway. Zambia had made strides in terms of corporal punishment, and there had been a revision of the training programme for school guidance and counselling teachers. These professionals were now more focused on psycho-social counselling, with every school now having a guidance and counselling section.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked how many health workers had undergone training when it came to children in general, or more specifically children’s rights?
Another Committee Expert asked about migrant children, noting that the Committee’s position was that children should not be deprived of their liberty and kept in camps. What was the delegation’s response? Regarding the age of criminal responsibility, Zambia was advised to raise the age to 14.
A Committee Expert asked about the 600,000 AIDS orphans. Had this number gone down, or was it on the rise? If a teen needed to go to hospital to obtain contraception, would they go? What would give them confidence that they could go to the health care system and access this material?
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Zambia, thanked the Minister and delegation for their constructive dialogue with the Committee. Mr. Madi noted the good intention of the new dawn government to make a complete turnaround for the enhancement and protection of children’s rights in Zambia. However, he noted that most of the issues which had been raised by the Committee were pending the enactment of the children’s code bill. Mr. Madi hoped Zambia would bear in mind the Committee’s concluding observations while reviewing laws and policies. The age of criminal responsibility remained a serious issue which needed to be attended to, as was the issue of children being recruited in the army under the age of 18. He expressed hope that the next time they met, all issues would be resolved.
MULAMBO HAIMBE, Minister of Justice of Zambia and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the constructive and comprehensive dialogue. The process had been an eye opener, as there were clearly areas where lapses needed to be addressed. The new dawn government was committed to achieving the closure of many items which needed to be addressed and had the intention of making as many strides as possible for the justice of all Zambians, including children. Mr. Haimbe extended an invitation to all Special Procedure mandate holders, reiterating there were no restrictions towards the acceptance of visits by these persons. Zambia looked forward to the next meeting with the Committee.
MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Chair, thanked the delegation and extended best wishes to the children of Zambia.
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