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Few countries have endured as much as Angola. Forty years of almost continuous war had left the nation in disarray when peace accords were finally signed in 2002. Today, inequities characterize Angolan society; while the economy has been growing by more than 7 per cent annually, 38 per cent of Angolans live in poverty. The Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality for Angola, stands at a high 58.6.
Led primarily by oil revenues, however, recent growth in Angola’s national domestic product has put the nation on a fast track to become a middle-income country, and infrastructure has been greatly improved.
Progress also has been made against several of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. More children than ever before are enrolled in school, with near equity for boys and girls. Child and maternal mortality have gone down, along with deaths due to malaria. Women’s access to and uptake of prenatal care has gone up, and HIV prevalence seems stable. With a growing private sector and lively civil society, there are now ample opportunities to create partnerships for social development – and for child-centred progress, in particular.
But progress for children has been uneven, and there have been setbacks. Life in rural areas continues to be tougher than in the cities. A million children are still outside the formal primary school system. Only one in three Angolan children gets registered at birth.
Against this backdrop of uneven development, families are struggling to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment, and the government is rising to a massive challenge of providing essential services for all. Recent government initiatives include administrative de-centralization, revitalization of health services, a ‘Water for All’ programme, a national programme for birth registration and legal reform to guarantee the fulfilment of children’s rights. While expenditure in social services represents 30 per cent of the state budget, the health and education sectors benefit from less than 10 per cent each, insufficient to ensure that Angola will meet all the MDGs.
UNICEF is supporting the government and civil society in Angola to achieve ‘11 Commitments for Angolan Children’ that constitute the National Plan of Action for children. Inspired by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the MDGs and the Millennium Declaration, these commitments form a blueprint for UNICEF’s engagement with the Angolan Government and other partners to make the country a better place for children and ensure their right to survival, development, education, protection and participation.
Issues facing children in Angola
- Child and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world, with almost one child in five not surviving to age five, while maternal mortality is 610 per 100,000 live births. Malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory infections and neonatal problems compounded by low birth weight are major killers of children; and haemorrhage, infections, obstructed labour and hypertension are responsible for 80 per cent of deaths of women who die during pregnancy and immediately after birth.
- Malnutrition is an underlying cause in most child deaths, with 29.2 per cent of children stunted and 15.6 per cent underweight. Exclusive breastfeeding remains low at 31.1 per cent. Just 60 per cent of the population has access to sanitation, and only 42 per cent to safe water. The national HIV prevalence is 1.9 per cent – low in comparison with neighbouring countries but uneven across provinces. In some southern provinces bordering with Namibia, prevalence is as high as 4.4 per cent.
- Primary school coverage has increased since the war ended in 2002, ensuring that 76 per cent of children under 12 are enrolled in school. However, 1 million children are still outside the primary school system, and repetition and drop-out rates are high. Early childhood education covers less than 10 per cent of children. The quality of education remains a problem, and securing universal access to education is a huge challenge. For secondary education, the situation is even bleaker, with just 20 per cent coverage for children aged 12-17.
- Only one in three Angolan children have a birth certificate, and access to a child-friendly justice system for children in conflict with the law is a far cry from reality. Children orphaned by war and HIV/AIDS account for 9.5 per cent of the child population. While child protection networks exist, there is still no comprehensive social protection system for children in Angola.
Activities and results for children
- UNICEF has been working in Angola since 1976 and supports the government and partners in their quest to plan, budget and deliver an essential package of services, commodities and household practices for children.
- Since the war ended in 2002, Angola has gone through a dramatic transition from post-war emergency to dynamic development. To help ensure that women and children benefit equitably from this high-speed economic growth, UNICEF focuses its support on building a framework of child-friendly laws, policies and budgets.
- UNICEF’s work for Angola’s children is increasingly aligned with the national strategic planning of key line ministries and the National Council for Children. Signed into law only in 2007, this Council has developed a comprehensive national plan of action – ‘11 Commitments for Children’ – that centres on achieving the MDGs and promoting universal respect for children’s rights at all levels of governance, public and family life. In particular, the 11th Commitment spells out ‘children in the state budget’ and sets the tone for allocating specific and targeted budget lines for children’s services.
Major areas of work
Rebuilding and strengthening primary health care. In August 2010, the Ministry of Health formally launched the Municipal Health System and the campaign for acceleration of maternal and infant mortality reduction. UNICEF continues to support this national process to revitalize the country’s primary health care system.
Essentially, this entails providing universal access to a package of high-impact interventions, including ante-natal care and counselling for women; provision of insecticide-treated bed nets for pregnant women and children under five to prevent malaria; immunization against vaccine-preventable childhood killer diseases; de-worming; and delivery of essential micronutrients. Only 47.3 per cent of Angolan women benefit from skilled attendance at birth, a major concern – along with proper care for newborns – that will require constant attention for years to come. Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, or PMTCT, and care for HIV-positive children are being strengthened as important areas of intervention and progressively integrated into the package of essential primary health services offered to every woman and child in the country.
The boosting of Angola’s primary health services specifically targets children and families, and concentrates on strengthening routine services – along with complementary outreach and mobile team activities, where needed, to ensure that all children benefit from quality care and sustained utilization of services. UNICEF is supporting 16 learning municipalities across five provinces to pilot this approach. With support from the World Bank and the European Union, the essential package of primary health services is being replicated in six provinces, thus reaching an estimated 40 per cent of the population.
UNICEF also provides technical assistance to the Ministry of Health in the areas of promoting environmentally friendly cold-chain technology to keep vaccines at the correct temperature; health system support; capacity development; commodity needs forecasting (including health information management systems and supply chain management); and social mobilization to create citizen demand for services and increase awareness of key family practices that keep children alive and well.
Providing all children with quality primary education in child-friendly schools. The Ministry of Education is spearheading the creation of child-friendly schools across the country with the development of a national framework and associated action plan to roll out activities at school level. The initiative aims to create schools that are well managed and in which high-quality teaching takes place in environments that are inclusive, gender-sensitive, safe and healthy, and have high levels of community participation.
The ultimate aim is to increase enrolment rates and reduce drop-out and repetition through improving learning outcomes for children. UNICEF is supporting the development of the national framework and will use this as a basis for assisting implementation of the initiative in the five focus provinces of Luanda, Bye, Moxico, Cunene and Huila.
A key component of the child-friendly schools approach is the construction of safe and healthy school buildings that conform to international construction standards. UNICEF is supporting this objective under the ‘Schools for Africa’ initiative, with over 375 schools built to date and an additional 50 sites pending. Child-centred teaching is being promoted through the training of over 9,000 teachers on a joint EU-funded project with the Ministry of Education, and an accelerated learning programme is offering second chances to children who missed out on all of part of their primary education. This field-level work is balanced by efforts to assist the Angolan Government in the development of child-friendly policies and strategies under the Education For All framework and in the creation of school construction standards.
To boost well-being in the early years, UNICEF is also supporting the government in the formulation of a national policy on early childhood development, an area that remains under-developed. Work is ongoing to support training of early childhood caregivers at the provincial level. Through the Ministry of Youth and Sports, UNICEF is supporting HIV-prevention research and activities for children outside the formal school system. This work is complemented by policy assistance to the national HIV/AIDS strategy and the Ministry of Youth and Sports prevention strategy.
Fostering an environment of social protection for children. UNICEF successfully advocated for the inclusion of a child rights perspective in Angola’s new constitution. Adopted in February 2010, the constitution features various articles on the rights and best interests of children, thus setting the tone for law and policy-making within child-friendly parameters, based on a bedrock principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This development provides a sound basis for crafting an inclusive law on social assistance to protect Angola’s most vulnerable children. However, much more work is needed to develop a full agenda for children’s protection, particularly work with partners to pilot cash-transfer schemes for the most vulnerable.
Child protection begins with ensuring universal access to a birth certificate UNICEF has supported several birth registration drives, as well as the introduction of routine birth registration at maternity wards, in an effort to integrate essential services at the municipal level.
UNICEF continues to support the government in mapping orphans and vulnerable children and subsequent family integration. In this regard, UNICEF supports care for children in institutions only as a temporary measure and only when no other solution is immediately available. To guarantee the well-being of children while in the care of institutions, UNICEF also works with the Ministry of Social Welfare to ensure that standards for institutional care are in place and respected. A foster family care programme is under expansion and aims to keep children in responsible family care whenever possible.
To guarantee justice for children in conflict with the law, UNICEF works with the Ministries of Justice and Interior to prevent under-age crime, shape the best procedures for dealing with children who come into conflict with the law, and create alternatives to imprisonment alongside adult offenders.
Finally, to foster an inclusive and child-friendly society, UNICEF mobilizes in-country resources for children through public and private partnerships to guarantee that children have a first call on national resources.
Communicating for, with and about children. UNICEF is mandated by the UN General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.
Advocacy permeates the UNICEF country programme in Angola at every level and with every audience. UNICEF works with the Ministry of Planning and the National Institute of Statistics to build a national system of key indicators, ensuring that the best data and documentation are in place to support policies and programmes. To embed routine monitoring of child well-being at the municipal level, work is in progress to pilot a standard for child-friendly municipalities.
In partnership with the Ministry of Woman and Family, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Institute of the Child and civil society partners, UNICEF supports a process to define a core set of family practices essential for children’s survival, development and protection. An emerging national communication strategy on these practices aims to reach pregnant women and children under five with a coherent set of culturally relevant messages.
Working with partners, UNICEF is supporting this process to promote the knowledge and adoption of healthy practices at the household level – and to stimulate citizen demand for and utilization of quality basic health services. Key family practices include handwashing with soap, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, use of bed nets and use of oral rehydration fluids, as well as early stimulation and protection of children from violence in the home.
Finally, UNICEF supports children themselves to grow as communicators and participants in their own development – for example, through youth radio programmes. This and similar initiatives are developed in partnership with the Ministry of Social Communication and the National State Radio in line with Angola’s 10th Commitment to children, ‘Children and Social Communication’.