Child Survival and Development
In West and Central Africa, we work to keep every child alive, healthy, well-nourished and free from HIV and AIDS.
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Today, children in West and Central Africa have a greater chance of reaching their fifth birthday than ever before. Child deaths have declined by a half over the past 25 years, a significant victory for children and women.
However, the vision of keeping every child alive is not in sight yet. The West and Central Africa region accounts for a third of all global child deaths, with most child deaths caused by easily preventable and treatable diseases such as neonatal complications, pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea.
Progress among certain groups is slow. Deaths in the first month of life remain excessively high, with one in 30 babies dying in the neonatal period. The likelihood of a pregnant woman or new mother dying has decreased, but pregnancy is still the leading cause of death among teenage mothers.
Childhood immunization, one of the most important health and life-saving advances in public health, has stagnated. Overall, more than 5.3 million children in the region have not been vaccinated since 2005, putting their lives at serious risk. This has led to repeated outbreaks of measles, meningitis, pertussis, polio and yellow fever in many countries.
Stunting – an irreversible condition that affects children’s development – remains the most prevalent form of child malnutrition in the region. More than a third of children under the age of five are stunted, impairing their brain development, lowering IQ, and weakening immune systems.
The region carries the highest share of new HIV infections globally. Six countries—Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Chad, and Ghana— now have 80 per cent of the burden of new HIV infections among children in the region.
Countries in the region have the lowest coverage of public health services proven to save lives, largely as a result of low performing and dysfunctional healthcare systems. National health-related policies are in place, but there is still not enough data, capacity and funding to implement quality health programmes for children and women.
Almost one third of deaths among children under 5 are preventable by vaccines. UNICEF works with partners to vaccinate children against the six major vaccine-preventable diseases – pertussis, childhood tuberculosis, tetanus, polio, measles and diphtheria.
UNICEF and its partners help to save the lives of newborn babies by supporting simple, low-cost interventions during delivery and in the vulnerable days and week after birth, both in a health facility and at home.
Most deaths of children under the age of five are preventable and treatable. UNICEF supports countries to provide preventative and curative services for pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria in communities and health facilities.
Stunting and Malnutrition
Stunting and other forms of childhood malnutrition can be defeated. UNICEF and its partners strive to achieve this by using evidence-based interventions, including support for breastfeeding, appropriate complementary foods for infants over six months, and micronutrient supplementation for women and children to address deficiencies.
Severe Acute Malnutrition
Children with severe acute malnutrition are nine times more likely to die than well-nourished children. To save the lives of these very sick children, UNICEF and partners act swiftly to provide early detection and treatment in communities and health facilities in both humanitarian and non-humanitarian situations.
Adolescent Girls and Nutrition
Adolescence is a time when nutritional needs are great, especially for pregnant teenage mothers. This is why UNICEF assists countries to improve the nutritional status of adolescent girls by providing iron and folic acid supplements.
HIV & AIDS
UNICEF and its partners help to minimize the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child through a combination of prevention measures such antiretroviral therapy for the HIV-positive mother and her newborn baby, hygienic delivery conditions and safe infant feeding.
Children and adolescents living with HIV need more attention. UNICEF helps to redress this inequity by supporting countries to increase adolescents’ access to early HIV diagnosis, treatment and retention in care.
An HIV-free generation is possible. UNICEF works with its partners to reduce new HIV infections in adolescents between 10 and 19 years of age. Empowering teenage girls and young women, working with men and boys, and providing youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services are some of the key ways to prevent the spread of HIV.
UNICEF supports countries to generate evidence on how and where to make the most effective investments for children. Check out our global publications catalogue.
For information about cholera, see Regional Cholera Platforms in Africa, bringing together multi-sectoral partners from different organizations involved in cholera prevention, preparedness, or response in the region.