Support to the Government of Zambia for the Implementation of Policy and the National Plan of Action against Human Trafficking

Recognising the value of coordinated and collaborative programmes of support to the Government of Zambia, the UN Country Team has established a joint programme against human trafficking, involving ILO, IOM, and UNICEF. The objective of this programme is to contribute to the protection of people (especially children and women) from the harmful effects of trafficking by supporting implementation of Government’s policy and action plan against trafficking.


Most countries in the Southern African region are considered “source” countries, from which victims are recruited or obtained, or transit countries through which traffickers transport their victims en route to their destination countries. Most victims are transported to South Africa, which is considered to be the primary destination or receiving country in the region. In this context, Zambia is considered mainly as a source and transit country, but data is still scarce.

Besides international trafficking, however, evidence suggests that the most common form of trafficking in Zambia is internal trafficking of women and children mostly for domestic labour, farm labour and commercial sexual exploitation.1 Zambia’s poverty and unemployment levels create an environment where many victims are easily deceived into accepting the lure offered by human traffickers without realising the full extent of their future employment, or the conditions in which they will work.

In Zambia, the majority of internal trafficking victims are thought to be children. In households that are financially over-stretched, orphaned children are usually the first to be pulled out of school or denied the opportunity. Orphans may be made to work long hours, given less food, be discriminated against or sexually abused.2 Alternatively, they may be sent to live with distant relatives against promises of education and a ‘better life’, but eventually end up as full time domestic labourers. The corruption of extended family support systems into a source of cheap labour recruitment is perhaps the single largest problem relating to trafficking in Zambia at the moment. People at risk of trafficking, their families and communities, currently show a substantial lack of awareness on the risks of trafficking. This poses a real risk of escalation, as traffickers prey on ignorance and many others inadvertently support trafficking (especially internal for domestic labour) through lack of knowledge.3

To date, there have been no long-term, large-scale public awareness or education against trafficking, either for those at particular risk, the general public, or key officials, local leaders and others with particular opportunities to prevent or respond to trafficking. Limited public information measures have been carried out primarily by UN agencies ILO and IOM. Efforts by the Zambia Police to identify and respond to trafficking have been largely inconsistent and uncoordinated. Consequently, those involved in local and international trafficking are easily able to lure victims without fear of detection or punishment, whilst society remains blind to the risks of trafficking and the plight of those who are trafficked.

One of the main challenges to prosecution of human trafficking has been the inadequacy of the legal framework with respect to trafficking crimes. Despite amendments to the Penal Code, a lack of a strong and clearly defined trafficking offence handicapped police and prosecutors from effectively acting to address trafficking. In 2005, Zambia enacted section 143 of the Penal Code, which makes it unlawful for any person: “to sell or traffic in a child or other person for any purpose or in any form commits an offence and is liable, upon conviction, to imprisonment for a term of not less than twenty years”.

Although Zambia has become one of the few countries in the region to enact a distinct offence on human trafficking, the legal provision was weakened by the absence of any clear definition of the offence. As a result, the law fell somewhat short of the requirements of the Trafficking Protocol, and full enforcement proved difficult. In September 2008, Zambia enacted a new comprehensive legislation however this new law has yet been tested or applied to any typical trafficking scenario.

Government has made attempts to increase the capacity of law enforcement agencies to detect human trafficking and to provide assistance to victims through training. Although these efforts to build capacity, raise awareness and increase vigilance have made genuine strides towards strengthening its response to human trafficking, general awareness amongst public sector officials and non-state actors is still extremely low.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to broaden national partnerships against human trafficking in Zambia by engaging potentially key change agents that are in a unique position to target information and awareness raising to both potential trafficking victims (or their parents/guardians) to increase their resilience to trafficking as well as sounding a warning to potential violators.


The programme has two purposes: first, to support the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) programmes to reduce the incidence of human trafficking, and second, to build capacity amongst public officials, service providers and non-state actors to detect and respond to cases of trafficking.

These purposes will be realised by:

  • Building resilience amongst people at risk of being trafficked
  • Building a protective environment at local level and developing broad based vigilance including diverse community, local actors, householders and employers
  • Enhancing the response to trafficking through detection, response and improved services to victims.

The programme includes activities at national level, such as awareness-raising and capacity building, as well as targeted action in sending communities and in receiving communities within the country. These communities are located in various parts of the country, including urban and peri-urban along major transport routes, border areas and very poor rural areas with limited economic opportunities.

Information from the 2007 EC funded study on child trafficking and the 2008 study on trafficking and forced labour (both ILO) will be combined with information from on-going support to victims of trafficking by IOM and national partners in order to map out vulnerable communities to be targeted. In-depth research on trafficking for domestic labour will contribute to further define geographical target areas, particularly those poor rural areas that serve as sending communities.

1 ILO/IPEC & RuralNet Associates (2007) ‘Working Paper on The Nature and Extent of Child Trafficking in Zambia’.

2 Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development, (2004), ‘Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Zambia 2004 Situation Analysis’

3 ILO/IPEC & RuralNet Associates (2007) ‘Working Paper on The Nature and Extent of Child Trafficking in Zambia’.