Image by Trevor Cole

The West and Central Africa region accounts for a third of all global child deaths, with most child deaths caused by easily preventable and treatable diseases such as neonatal complications, pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea.

 

Progress among certain groups is slow. Deaths in the first month of life remain excessively high, with one in 30 babies dying in the neonatal period. The likelihood of a pregnant woman or new mother dying has decreased, but pregnancy is still the leading cause of death among teenage mothers.

 

Childhood immunization 

 

one of the most important health and life-saving advances in public health, has stagnated. Overall, more than 5.3 million children in the region have not been vaccinated since 2005, putting their lives at serious risk. This has led to repeated outbreaks of measles, meningitis, pertussis, polio and yellow fever in many countries.

Stunting – an irreversible condition that affects children’s development – remains the most prevalent form of child malnutrition in the region. More than a third of children under the age of five are stunted, impairing their brain development, lowering IQ, and weakening immune systems.

 

The region carries the highest share of new HIV infections globally. Six countries—Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Chad, and Ghana— now have 80 per cent of the burden of new HIV infections among children in the region.

Countries in the region have the lowest coverage of public health services proven to save lives, largely as a result of low performing and dysfunctional healthcare systems. National health-related policies are in place, but there is still not enough data, capacity and funding to implement quality health programmes for children and women.

 

Violence, abuse and exploitation of children in West and Central Africa are tragic aspects of childhood. Surveys show that the vast majority of children experience violent discipline. Nearly one in three teenage girls have been beaten or hit since the age of 15, and one in 10 raped or sexually abused.

 

Child marriage 

 

A serious violation of children’s rights – affects four in 10 girls aged 20–24 who were married before their 18th birthday. The region also has a quarter of all girl victims of female genital mutilation and cutting, and the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world.

Despite significant progress in improving civil registration and vital statistics systems, birth

 

registration rates in the region are low and declining in some countries. Less than half of all children under five in West and Central Africa are registered at birth.

Children in the region are especially affected by migration. Many are currently on the move, either unaccompanied or traveling with their families. Migration involves plucking children from their homes, schools and communities, which can be hugely disruptive, stressful and dangerous.

 

Armed conflict

 

which plagues some of the region’s countries, has also put the lives of children in serious danger. Children are experiencing grave child rights in violations such as killing, injury, recruitment by armed forces or groups, sexual violence, abduction, denial of humanitarian assistance and attacks on schools and hospitals.

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