Eastern and Southern Africa is a vast, geographically diverse region that stretches from the Red Sea in the north to the Cape of Good Hope in the south. The UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR) encompasses 21 programme countries: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Like the rest of the continent, most of Eastern and Southern Africa became the theatre of European imperialism during the 19th and 20th century, with the United Kingdom, Portugal, Italy, Germany and France competing for political power, access to fertile land and dominance over important trading routes.
The first country in the region to become independent was South Africa in 1931. The last countries to gain international recognition as independent states were Namibia in 1990 and Eritrea in 1993.
Following the withdrawal of the colonial powers, many countries in the region experienced political instability and open conflict. Since 9 July 2011, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan, and became the newest member in the region.
Somalia has been without a central government for almost 20 years following the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991. A whole generation has been growing up without knowing any period of peace.
Most countries in the region (Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) belong to the group of lower income countries with a gross national income (GNI) per capita income of less than $955 per year. Angola, Lesotho and Swaziland as well as Botswana, Namibia and South Africa are middle-income countries, with the latter three registering a per capita income over $3,946 per year (upper middle income group).
These middle income countries, however, are also characterized by the most severe income inequalities in the world. Namibia ranks number 1 globally when it comes to disparities, Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa follow shortly afterwards.