Two million children under five die each year in Central and West Africa, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said this week.
This accounts for almost a third of all such deaths worldwide, the UN children’s agency said.
But the situation is gradually improving, leading to the mortality rate for children falling, UNICEF regional director Manuel Fontaine was quoted as telling Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Many experts now believe that West and Central Africa, regions that were also singled out in a recent UNICEF ‘gloomy’ report on education, are the ‘worst’ places for children to grow in.
State corruption, dictatorship, human rights violation, inadequate basic healthcare and sanitation, girls’ high illiteracy levels, inconsistent water and power supply, among others, are said to be the common features of these two parts of the world.
In a continent where more than 60 000 babies are born every day, governments’ efforts to improve the situation are being overwhelmed by their countries’ population growth year in and year out.
Africa currently has 1.2 billion people, with Nigeria providing at least 15% of that number. The UN said progress in reducing child mortality has not affected the overall number of deaths because of ‘enormous’ population growth.
But because of population growth, ‘the number of children under five who die every year from preventable causes remains unchanged’ at two million, AFP reports this week.
“They continue to have more and more children in a population that is already very young,” undermining any potential economic advantage,” Fontaine told AFP.
Fontaine also noted that Ghana and Senegal, two stable democracies, have kept their populations under control compared with troubled countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Sierra Leone or the Central African Republic.
Photo: Undernourished children in western Ivory Coast queue to get food at a UN centre. Credit: IRIN/UN