Africa, and particularly sub-Saharan Africa, remains the most difficult place in the world for a child to survive, says a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which also calls for greater efforts to improve the lives of the continent’s youngest citizens.
UNICEF’s inaugural report “The State of Africa’s Children 2008” complements the agency’s annual flagship publication, “The State of the World’s Children,” and outlines some of the recent achievements in child survival and primary health care in Africa.
With only 22 per cent of the world’s births, sub-Saharan Africa now accounts for half of all under-five deaths, according to the report, which was launched yesterday in Nairobi by former President of Mozambique Joachim Chissano.
The report shows that in 2006, five million African children died before reaching their fifth birthday, an average of 14,000 a day.
Sub-Saharan African countries accounted for nine out of the top 10 countries with the highest under-five mortality rates in the world. Between 1970 and 2006, sub-Saharan Africa reduced its under-five mortality rate by just one third.
The report urges all stakeholders – including governments, international agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society and the private sector – to unite behind the goals of maternal, newborn and child survival.
“In the whole report the need of uniting efforts and solidarity is a common feature,” stated Mr. Chissano. “It is now time to renew our commitment and efforts towards child survival and health. Together we can succeed in our quest to achieve social justice and sound health for the African children.”
He called the report “an excellent blueprint” on how to accelerate the attainment of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the internationally agreed targets for eradicating poverty and other social ills by 2015.
If sub-Saharan Africa is to meet the MDG of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, an annual mortality reduction rate of more than 10 per cent is needed over the next eight years.
“It is clear that we need strong political will from each African Government,” said UNICEF Regional Director of Eastern and Southern Africa, Per Engebak. “There is no cause more important than ensuring our children survive and thrive with the best start in life.”