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Known as the Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda is also now the most densely populated country in Africa, with over 300 people per square kilometre. Half of Rwanda’s citizens are under the age of 18. Most of these children live on less than $1 a day. Many are still recovering from the 1994 genocide and its aftermath. In spite of these factors, the country has achieved remarkable progress, particularly in accelerating child survival and primary school enrolment.
Issues facing children in Rwanda
- Some 100,000 orphans live in child-headed households.
- While overall HIV prevalence remains low (about 3 per cent), only half of all children in need of anti-retroviral treatment receive it.
- Close to half of all children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
- More than 80 per cent of all diseases that affect children are water-borne.
- Neonatal deaths are still high, at 37 per 1,000 live births.
- Of the children who enrol in school, half do not complete the primary cycle.
- Approximately 4 per cent of children aged 5 to 14 are working, mostly in domestic service and the informal economy.
- Over half of all households are either food-insecure or vulnerable due to fluctuations in global food prices, shocks and natural disasters, as well as loss of soil productivity and steadily shrinking per capita availability of arable land.
Activities and results for children
- Over 97 per cent of all children under five have been supplemented with vitamin A, boosting their immunity and chance of survival.
- Access to and use of health and health-related services has improved since 2000, with three-fourths of the population living within 5 km of a health clinic.
- Tetanus has been eliminated from the country and efforts are under way to tackle polio, measles and hepatitis.
- Over 100,000 people accessed safe water for the first time in 2007 alone.
- Fifty-four per cent of households use at least one insecticide-treated bed net, and about 25 per cent have two nets. A national programme aims to reach 90 per cent of all households by 2012.
- More than half of women (53 per cent) now deliver their babies in the presence of skilled health personnel.
- The number of children on anti-retroviral treatment rose from 2,757 in 2006 to 3,788 the following year, and 281 sites exist – up from 33 in 2002 – to help women get access to HIV prevention and treatment services.
- The portion of the national budget that has been allocated for social protection initiatives (including funds for genocide survivors and people with disabilities) has increased by nearly one third, and the government has endorsed a five-year National Strategic Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children.
- Fifty-two schools in Rwanda are ‘child-friendly’, and 17 per cent of all primary schools in the country are on track to becoming child-friendly centres of learning and care by 2012.
- To replace classrooms damaged in an earthquake in February 2008, UNICEF teams have constructed 212 temporary classrooms with water and sanitation facilities and are rebuilding a destroyed, 24-classroom primary school and reconstructing it as a model child-friendly school.