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Situation of children in Ghana

© UNICEFGhana/2011/Quarmyne
Increasing numbers of people have gained access to basic services in Ghana, but progress is not uniform. Pictured: Kangaroo Mother Care has helped treat premature babies in Ghana.

Ghana’s capacity and willingness to harness its economic and social potential have yielded impressive results, particularly over the last decade. As facilities at community level have gradually improved and incomes have risen, increasing numbers of people have gained access to basic services. However, the progress is not uniform. In Ghana’s northern regions, the majority of the population continues to go without, and those who are poorest are seeing little benefit from Ghana’s growth.

Ghana now has the potential to pull all its citizens out of poverty and reach the MDGs, but it needs the technical expertise to help it get there.


• Ghana almost halved its poverty rate from 51.7% in 1992 to 28.5% in 2006, putting it on track to achieve the MDG 1 target by 2015. However, income disparities have worsened, with poverty deepening for those worse off, particularly in Northern Ghana where the numbers of poor people have risen.

Child mortality

• Progress on reducing child mortality has not been sufficient. Since 2008, the number of under-five deaths has stalled at double the Millennium Development Goal target (82 deaths per 1000 live births in 2011 compared to a target of 40). Malaria is the leading cause of death for children under five. Another critical period is during the first 30 days of a child’s life (the newborn period). More than half of infant deaths in Ghana happen within the first month of life, and the newborn death rate has not improved in recent years. Malnutrition is a significant indirect cause of child mortality, contributing to one-third of all childhood deaths. Although levels of malnutrition in Ghana have dropped, 23% of children are stunted and 57% are anaemic. Nutrition is particularly poor in Northern Ghana, where almost two in every five children are stunted and more than 80% of children suffer from anaemia.


• Ghana has been a role model for many African countries in the provision of free basic education, with enrolment (84.1%) and gender parity (1.02) rates amongst the highest in the region. However, the quality of education in Ghana can be improved.  In 2011, just under 60% of students passed the core subjects of the Basic Education Certificate Examination held at the end of junior high school. 

Water and sanitation

Although Ghana is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal for access to improved water sources (currently 89%), access to improved sanitation is incredibly low. Only 15% of the population has access to adequate sanitation, far below the MDG target of 54%. With diarrheal disease killing thousands of children a year, taking sanitation seriously is a central priority to improving the health of Ghana’s children.

Child Protection

• Ghana has some laws for the protection of children, however, enforcement remains weak and laws have not been made appropriate for the context. Violence and abuse of children, including sexual abuse, remains very high with over 90% of children reporting having experienced physical violence, both at home and in the school environment. Child labour and child trafficking are stubborn problems with no evidence of being reduced despite Government and civil society efforts in recent years to address these problems. More than 4,000 children still live in residential homes, often labelled as ‘orphanages’. Many of these children are unnecessarily separated from their families. Ghana also has a very high rate of adoption of children, including inter-country adoption. However, insufficient levels of transparency and control in the system warranted the Government of Ghana to recently introduce a moratorium banning all adoptions of children until the situation can be examined further.



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