United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report has pointed to a sharp increase in number of children in Africa.
The report, released early this week, indicates that the projected expansion in Africa’s child population will necessitate an increase of more than 11 million skilled education and health personnel by 2030, if it is to keep pace with the continent’s unprecedented demographic transition.
During the release of the report in Johannesburg in South Africa, the UNICEF’S Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Pakkala, said: “Investing in health, protection, and education must become an absolute priority for Africa between now and 2030.”
Africa’s child population is projected to increase by 170 million between now and 2030, taking the number of the continent’s under-18s to 750 million. This is according to Generation 2030 Africa: Prioritizing investment in children to reap the demographic dividend, a new report released by UNICEF on child demographics in Africa and their implications for the continent, and the world.
The report identifies three key issues for investment: health care, education, and the protection and empowerment of women and girls. Consequently, Africa will have to add 5.6 million new health workers and 5.8 million new teachers by 2030 to meet minimum international standards in health care and best practice targets in education due to the rapidly growing population.
“We are at the most critical juncture for Africa’s children. Get it right, and we set the foundation for a demographic dividend, which could lift hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty, and contribute to enhanced prosperity, stability, and peace,” she added.
South Sudan children in a class. Photos by Felix
The children in Uganda mainly in rural areas have been faced with improper care especially in health and social life. They are mainly sucked into the abject poverty where their parents could not afford clothing, proper shelter and educating them.
This has always made the lives of children in rural areas miserable despite some interventions by governments and donor countries to improve their living conditions.
The UNICEF report states that almost half of the continent’s population is under 18 years old, and children comprise the majority of the population in around one third of the 55 African Union member states. On current projections, the number of Africa’s children will top one billion by 2055.
Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said: “Imagine the potential of one billion children! If Africa steps up its investments in children and youth now, transforms its education systems and empowers women and girls to participate fully in community, workplace and political life, it will be able to reap faster, deeper and longer dividends from its demographic transition.”
If investments do not occur in Africa’s youth and children, the once-in-a-generation opportunity of a demographic dividend may be replaced by a demographic disaster, characterized by unemployment and instability.