18 NOVEMBER 2013, ADDIS ABABA. Press Release. According to a new report launched today which ranks how child-friendly 52 African governments are, Africa has become a better place for children compared to five years ago, and improving child wellbeing does not necessarily depend on the wealth of the country. The new flagship report by The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) - The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013: Towards Greater Accountability to Africa’s Children - analyses and ranks the performance of 52 African governments in a Child-Friendly Index comparing progress since the first ranking in 2008.
The countries that score highest as the “most child-friendly” are Mauritius (also top of the ranking in 2008), South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Lesotho, Algeria, Swaziland and Morocco. Those scoring lowest and categorised as the “least child-friendly” are Chad, Eritrea, Sao Tome and Principe, Zimbabwe, Comoros, Central African Republic (CAR), Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Mauritania, most of them under-investing in education and health.
Developed by ACPF – an independent, not-for-profit, pan-African institution of policy research and dialogue on the African child – the Child Friendliness Index is based on 44 indicators that measure government’s commitment to the protection of their children, provision for their children’s basic needs and the participation of children in decisions that affect them.
“Looking back at the performance of African governments over the past five years, there are positive signs that Africa has started its long journey towards being a continent fit for children”, said H.E. President Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique and Chairperson of the ACPF Board of Trustees. “More and more governments are allocating a larger share of their budgets to sectors that have a direct impact on children including health and education, and most governments are taking steps to enhance the legal protection of children from abuse and exploitation.”
The report also reveals that the relationship between the level of a country’s wealth and its score on the Child-Friendliness Index shows no obvious association. Countries with relatively low GDP per capita such as Rwanda, Lesotho, Togo and Malawi scored high, whilst those with relatively high GDP per capita including Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Namibia and Congo (Brazzaville) scored poorly. “The results of this ranking demonstrate that the wealth of a country does not necessarily translate to child-friendliness. What matters is political determination,” said H.E. Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Chairperson of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, former Prime Minister of Tanzania, and Secretary-General of the Organisation of the African Union (OAU) from 1988 to 2001.
The Index also reveals those who have most improved over the past five years, which include Swaziland (rising 36 places since the 2008 ranking), Gambia (jumping 29 places) and Liberia (moving up 20 places). Swaziland, for example, has seen a drop in infant mortality of more than a third, increased measles immunization coverage, improved levels of deliveries attend by skilled health workers, better sanitation facilities and drinking water and the introduction of a number of child-related laws to strengthen child protection systems. Gambia moved up the ranking significantly due to a 92% increase in health spending between 2005-2011 and in education spending by some 95%, as well as raising the minimum age for criminal responsibility and age of marriage in line with international standards.
The biggest fallers in terms of child-friendliness include Namibia (down 24 places), Niger (17 places down), Kenya (15 places down) Mauritania (down 15) and DRC (14 places down). Reasons for the fall primarily include reductions in government spending on health and education. The report highlights that despite progress, Africa remains a region in which large numbers of children continue to die of preventable causes and many still deprived of access to their basic needs. Violence against children is also widely prevalent across the continent, child protection systems largely non-existent and little progress has been made in ensuring children’s voices are heard.
Of the 52 countries ranked, some have remained consistently child-friendly over the past five years, including Mauritius, South Africa, Tunisia, Cape Verde, Algeria and Morocco. In all of these countries political commitment has been translated into action in the legal, budgetary and political realms. Others have continued to perform poorly and remain ranked among the “least child-friendly” both in 2008 and 2013, including Chad, Eritrea, Sao Tome and Principle, Comoros and CAR.
“The recent economic growth witnessed in the region must translate into concrete results in terms of reducing inequality and expanding the fiscal space to invest in our children, said Mr. Théophane Nikyèma, Executive Director of The African Child Policy Forum. “Whilst there is the “good news” story of the dramatic drop in child mortality and a boom in primary education, the persistence of preventable deaths, child hunger and malnutrition, lack of access to healthcare services, low school completion rates and declining educational quality in the region continue to prove obstacles for improving children’s wellbeing.”
Accountability is about delivering promises; it is about performing better and showing concrete results on child wellbeing and, most importantly, it is about considering children as major constituents and putting them at the centre of the development agenda. Accountability has far-reaching implications on children. Without accountable-governance, it would not be possible to expedite the realisation of their rights and wellbeing. The report underscores the intrinsic link between accountability and compliance with regional and international child rights standards.
The report also considers how much of a voice Africa’s children have in the matters that affect their daily lives and their futures. “The three elements of effective child participation are representation, inclusion and accountability,” said Dr. Agnes Akosua Aidoo, Vice-Chair, UNCRC (2008 – 2010), “And whilst there are no blueprints for child participation, there are many good examples in Africa from child rights school clubs to children’s parliaments. What is required is a complementary set of approaches that are established both in the community and with formal national structures that are fully representative of all children including those marginalized or vulnerable, and with the support and consensus of adults.”
Investing in prevention and treatment of killer diseases and re-enforcing maternal and infant nutrition interventions; ensuring universal quality primary and secondary education; increasing public investments in sectors linked to children such as education, health, and social protection; improving legal protection of children and enforcement; and, most importantly, enhancing accountability and good governance are key measures, according to The ACPF Report, that African governments need to take for further improving the life situation of children in Africa.
CONTACT: To access the full report and a series of factsheets and media materials visit www.africanchildforum.org/africanreport2013
Source: The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF)