Countries of West and Central Africa



© UNICEF/2008/Asselin
Azara Mohammed, 14, and Humu Baba, 13, visit a guinea-worm containment centre in the town of Savelugu, capital of Savelugu-Nanton District in Northern Region.

A decade of economic growth, little political strife and democratic governance have propelled Ghana towards middle-income status.

The country is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets of halving poverty and reaching 80 percent coverage for safe drinking water by 2015.

Child mortality rates have dropped considerably. Primary school enrolment is among the highest in West and Central Africa region.

The discovery of rich oil deposits promises to dramatically increase national wealth and provides a unique opportunity to invest in social development.

Issues facing children in Ghana
With Ghana’s growing wealth, it is important to keep focus on the thousands of children and women who remain in poverty with inadequate health care, nutrition, education and protection.

• Though child survival has improved as a result of high impact healthcare services and economic progress, one in 12 Ghanaian children under the age of five still dies from largely preventable childhood diseases.

• Malnutrition contributes to 40 per cent of childhood deaths; 28 per cent of children below five are stunted.

• 70 per cent of children between 12 and 23 months are fully immunised.

• Ghana’s maternal mortality rate is high at 451 per 100,000 live births.

• Access to safe drinking water is comprehensive but use of improved sanitation is lagging behind, especially in the marginalised northern areas of Ghana.

• The prevalence of the debilitating Guinea Worm disease in the Northern Region, though lower than before, still makes Ghana the second most endemic country after Sudan.

• Ghana is making good progress in reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS. The national prevalence dropped from 3.6 per cent in 2003 to 1.7 per cent in 2008, below the Western African average.

However, HIV prevalence among adolescents and young people is still above the national average at 1.9%.

• Ghana’s net primary school enrolment and completion rates of more than 80 per cent are far ahead of sub-Saharan averages. But the quality of education needs improvements.

Proficiency levels for core subjects such as English and Maths continue to be low.

• Thirty-four per cent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 were engaged in some form of economic activities in 2003, while nearly 20 per cent were involved in activities classified as child labour.

Activities and results for children
The UNICEF Country Programme 2006–2011 leverages resources and partnerships for children and women, actively advocates for children’s rights and provides technical, material and financial support to improve access to, and quality of basic social services.

UNICEF works in five strategic focus areas:

1. Young child survival and development (Read the MTSP1): Between 2003 and 2008, child mortality in Ghana declined by 30 per cent.

This trend was particularly noticeable in the three northern regions benefiting from UNICEF support to the High Impact Rapid Delivery (HIRD) approach, a strategy and programme to rapidly reduce mortality and malnutrition in young children.

The UNICEF and partner-supported Guinea Worm Eradication Programme saw cases of the disease drop by 85 per cent between 2007 and 2008.

2. Basic Education and Gender Equality (Read the MTSP 2) UNICEF support to girls’ education contributed to the enrolment of more than 30,000 new students in 2008, of which 55 per cent were girls, in 15 low performing districts.

Gender disparity was significantly reduced in these districts.

3. HIV and AIDS & Children (Read the MTSP 3) Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services are delivering results. In 2008, 83% of the 6,021 women found to be HIV positive during pregnancy were provided with treatment to prevent transmission of the virus to their unborn babies.

Another 12,000 pregnant women still require this anti retroviral therapy. UNICEF supported the updating of national guidelines on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) and new guidelines for Early Infant HIV Diagnosis (EID), which are now helping to roll out EID and treatment for children.

The government has adopted the UNICEF-supported HIV Alert School programme as a national model for preventing infection among children and adolescents.

4. Child Protection (Read the MTSP 4) UNICEF is working with the government and other partners to develop a comprehensive child protection system.

An Anti-Human Trafficking Unit was set up and police officers trained; UNICEF is supporting national efforts to end child labour in the cocoa industry; Domestic Violence and Victim Support Units were established in all ten regions with UNICEF support; and UNICEF continues to strongly advocate for a ban on corporal punishment in schools.

5. Policy Advocacy, Partnerships and Participation (Read the MTSP 5) UNICEF played a key role in helping the government develop and implement the Livelihood Empowerment Action against Poverty (LEAP) cash transfer scheme which benefited 26,200 extremely poor households in 2008.

The MICS national and district surveys were completed and GhanaInfo (a tool for national and global monitoring of human development) established. Four studies have attracted attention to children's rights and provided the basis for new work with the Ministry of Finance.



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