Côte d’Ivoire is located on the south coast of West Africa and is bordered on the north by Mali and Burkina Faso. Ghana borders the east and Liberia and Guinea the west of the country.
Two coups (1999 and 2002) exposed deep divisions within the Ivorian society, igniting a civil war that split the country in two, with southern provinces controlled by the government and northern and most western provinces in rebel hands. A peace agreement signed in March 2007 brought back some stability in the country. Elections are to be held in due course.
With more than 60 ethnic groups(2), Côte d’Ivoire represents a real cultural mosaic. The country has a population of about 19 million people(3) , of which 48 per cent(3) is under 18 years old and 46 per cent(3) lives in urban areas. Since the beginning of the crisis in 2002, poverty has risen to about 40 per cent(4). The country ranks 166 out of 177 on the Human Development Index (HDI) scale(4).
Every year, about 684,000(3) children are born in Côte d’Ivoire. Every year, out of 1000 children born alive, 90(3) die before their first birthday and 127(3) before their fifth birthday. Most of these children die of preventable or easily treated diseases of which malaria, measles, respiratory infections, diarrhoea and neonatal infections are the deadliest. Most of these children die of preventable or easily treated diseases of which malaria, measles, respiratory infections, diarrhoea and neonatal infections are the deadliest. Moreover, 20 per cent(3) of Ivorian children under five are underweight and 34 per cent(3) are stunted; this indicates an acute malnutrition among children.
Most people in Côte d’Ivoire have access to clean drinking water; however, only 37 per cent(3) of the population has access to proper sanitation facilities.
Côte d’Ivoire has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in West Africa: it is estimated at 4.7 per cent(5). 74,000(3) children live currently with HIV and 450,000(3) have been orphaned by AIDS.
The country used to have one of the best health systems of the region but the crisis prompted thousands of doctors, nurses and pharmacists to leave conflict affected areas. However, today health agents are slowly beginning to return and clinics are re-opening.
The educational system has been seriously affected by the crisis, especially in the Centre, North and West (CNO) of the country. In the current post-crisis context the return of displaced populations generates new challenges such as the rehabilitation and re-opening of schools damaged during the conflict and the re-deployment of school administrations in CNO areas.
Parental preference for educating boys rather than girls is a persisting challenge, especially in the West of the country where the primary school enrolment rate is 37.9 per cent(6) among girls compared to 55.9 per cent(6) for boys. Country wide, the primary enrolment rate is 51.3 per cent(6) for girls compared to 58.6 per cent(6) for boys.
With 35.3 per cent(7) of child working, the issue of child labour is a matter of concern to Côte d’Ivoire. Traditionally, children’s contribution to family farming was seen as a way to promote socialisation and community spirit among children and therefore widely accepted. Unfortunately, today’s rural and urban impoverishment context has contributed to often transforming traditional values into trafficking and exploitation of children for economical ends.
Côte d’Ivoire is also affected by internal and cross-border child trafficking, lack of birth registration and domestic and sexual violence, and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practice. Excision is a common practice in the country where 36.4 per cent(6) of women between 15 and 49 have been subjected to it. In the North, 88 per cent(6) and in the West, 73 per cent(6) of women and girls have undergone FGM.