Briefing for the Day of the African Child

from African Union, Save the Children, UN Children's Fund
Published on 16 Jun 2009 View Original
Reaching Millennium Development Goal 4: What progress has Africa made and what more needs to be done?


This briefing document reviews examples of the progress that Africa has made in reaching the Accelerated Action Towards Africa Fit for Children 2008 - 2012 as adopted by the African Union and Member States in the agreed actions related to Enhancing Life Chances and Child Survival and looks at what more needs to be done. The commitment, "Enhancing Life Chances," entails strengthening health systems to provide quality maternal and child health services; scaling up essential interventions to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality and reduce neonatal mortality; scaling up a minimum package of proven child health interventions; and supporting family and community based actions that enhance children's health, nutrition and well-being including potable water, improved sanitation and hygiene, appropriate young child feeding practices and food security measures.

Unless otherwise stated, all the data in this briefing comes from the 2009 edition of UNICEF's The State of Africa's Children, which reviews where the African continent stands on child survival.

Some Progress Being Made

In countries lying north of the Sahara - Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia - the average under-five mortality rate for 2006 was 30 per 1,000 live births, meaning that approximately 1 in every 33 children died before their fifth birthday. Since 1990, these five countries in North Africa have reduced their child mortality rate by 56%, putting them well on track to Millennium Development Goal 4, which seeks to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015.

The adoption of effective anti-measles strategies in Africa has resulted in a 64% annual reduction in the number of deaths of children under-five caused by measles between 2000 and 2006, from over 500,000 to just 180,000. Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, and South Africa have reduced measles deaths to near zero.

In stark contrast, the child survival trend in sub-Saharan Africa has shown more limited progress. In 2007, the latest year for which firm estimates are available, the under-five mortality rate for sub-Saharan Africa was 148 per 1,000 live births, meaning that roughly 1 in every 7 children failed to reach their fifth birthday - the highest rate of under-five mortality in the world. 43% of all children who die in sub-Saharan Africa under-five (1.9 million children) die in just three countries, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia and Nigeria.

This publication can be reproduced in part or whole for purposes of advancing the wellbeing of children and on condition that Save the Children, UNICEF and the African Union are acknowledged.

Principal Authors: Richard G. Hartill, Child Survival Advisor for Africa, Save the Children UK and Carol A. Miller, Director of Policy and Communication for Africa, Save the Children USA. Additional contributions came from Kate Kerber, Joy Lawn, David Mepham, Mary Beth Powers, Simon Wright and Michael Klosson.