Fast facts on children

Young child survival and development

Basic education and gender equality

Child protection

Children and AIDS


Child protection

© UNICEF/NYHQ2004-0143/Furrer
A boy sits with a male caretaker at a children's home in a poor neighbourhood in Nairobi, Kenya.

Efforts to prevent and respond to violations of children’s rights have multiplied and become more effective across the region, and public campaigns have been intensified to put the spotlight on violence against children.

Child marriage remains extremely common. About one third of the region’s women aged 20 - 24 were married before their 18th birthday. 

FGM/C is particularly prevalent in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. In Somalia, 98 per cent of women have undergone this practice, the highest in the world.

National studies in Kenya, Tanzania Swaziland and Zimbabwe suggest that between 30 and 40 per cent of girls under 18 years of age suffered from sexual abuse and violence in their lives.

As a region, ESA has the highest rate of child labour in the world, together with West and Central Africa. Nearly a third of children aged 5–14 in these two regions are engaged in work.

Birth registration

In Eastern and Southern Africa, only 38 per cent of children have had their births registered, ranging widely from 3 per cent in Somalia to 95 per cent in South Africa.

Without a birth certificate, children cannot enroll in school and are not eligible to receive child support grants. 

When children have no legal proof of age and legal identity, they are more vulnerable to early marriage and other harmful practices, including child labour, illegal inter-country adoption, and recruitment into armed forces and groups or commercial sexual exploitation. 

Although most countries in ESA have legal provisions to facilitate timely registration of births, few have policies that ensure birth certificates are free. 

Violence against children

No violence against children is justifiable; all violence against children is preventable. 

In Eastern and Southern Africa, researches carried out by UNICEF and partners reveal a picture of widespread violence against girls and boys. 

Data generated by these initiatives indicate that while some violence is unexpected and isolated, the majority of violent acts experienced by children is small, yet repeated, and is often perpetrated by people who are part of their lives: parents, teachers, schoolmates, employers, boyfriends or girlfriends. 

Much violence against children is un-reported and un-recorded. 



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