Children in West and Central Africa

UNICEF in the region

Polio immunization

Child and Maternal Health


HIV/AIDS in the region


Water and sanitation

Child protection


Antenatal Care

© UNICEF/2011/Pirozzi
A health worker performs an antenatal examination on Mema Kiahon in the maternal and child health section of the UNICEF-supported Senjeh Clinic in Senjeh, a town in Cape Mount County, Liberia.

The antenatal period is an important time for reaching women with intrventions and information that foster their health, well-being and survival - and that of their infants.

Although 67 per cent of women in West and Central Africa receive antenatal care at least once, this average masks wide variations in coverage, from 39 per cent of women in Chad to 99 per cent in Cape Verde. Only 44 per cent of women in the region receive antenatal care the recommended minimum of four times. The widest differential is in Burkina Faso, where 85 per cent of women are seen at least once, but only 18 per cent are seen four times or more.

Preventing maternal and newborn morbidity and pregnancy and childbirth complications

Malaria is endemic in this region, and Africa as a whole is home to more than 60 per cent of the 50 million pregnant women who are exposed to malaria each year. In West and Central Africa, the percentage of pregnant women aged 15–49 who received intermittent preventive treatment against malaria during antenatal visits remains low. In countries reporting on this indicator through household surveys, coverage is less than 10 per cent, except in the Gambia (33 per cent), Ghana (27 per cent) and Togo (18 per cent).

In 2007, an estimated 11 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women in West and Central Africa received antiretroviral therapy to prevent transmission of HIV to their children.

UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend a minimum of four antenatal care visits during pregnancy, the minimum needed to provide the most important servces, which can include treatment of hypertension to prevent eclampsia, tetanus immunization, intermittent preventive treatment for malaria and distribution of insecticide-treated nets, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, micronutrient supplementation, and birth preparedness, including information about danger signs during pregnancy and childbirth.





Mothers and babies in Mali and Niger

On International Family Day, 15 May 2012, we highlight what mothers do to promote healthy lives for their children amidst an unfolding nutrition crisis in the Sahel.

View the photo essay


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