Global Advocacy for African Affairs
Education Leadership/Governance

The Many Faces of Exclusion

-End of Childhood Report 2018

Childhoods threatened across East and Southern Africa

Save the Children report finds conflict, widespread poverty and discrimination against girls are grave threats to childhood.

Half of all children in East and Southern Africa (120 million) are at high or extremely high risk of missing out on childhood, a new report by Save the Children has found.

Launched ahead of International Children’s Day on June 1st, the annual global index examines the events that rob children of their childhoods and prevent them from reaching their full potential. This year’s report, The Many Faces of Exclusion, reveals how poverty, conflict and discrimination against girls are putting more than 1.2 billion children – over half of children worldwide – at risk for an early end to their childhood.

In its second year, the report also includes a ranking of 175 countries where childhood is most and least threatened as a result of poor health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labour, child marriage, early pregnancy and extreme violence.

These “childhood enders” are most prevalent where the three risks – poverty, conflict and gender bias – overlap to create toxic environments for children.

153 million children are at extreme risk of missing out on childhood because they live in countries characterised by all three risks. South Sudanese and Somali girls are an example of such children facing this triple threat.

The report also found that:

  • 13% of children in Somalia do not live to see their 5th birthday. This is the highest rate in the world.
  • South Sudan is 5th-worst performing country meaning most children are missing out on childhood. It has the highest rate of children out of school in the world (67%) and the second highest rate of displacement globally (31% forcibly displaced). South Sudan is also in the top five for child marriage at 40%.
  • In East and Southern Africa, one-fifth of girls aged 15 to 19 are currently married or in union. The lowest rates of child marriage are in Rwanda (3.1%) and South Africa (3.3%) – lower even than those found in Denmark, Spain and the US.
  • One third of children in East and Southern Africa (34.4%) are moderately or severely stunted. In fact, the region claims three of the top 5 countries with the highest stunting rates in the world: Madagascar, Eritrea and Burundi, where about half or more of all children under age 5 are stunted.
  • Malnutrition, disease and inadequate healthcare kill over 20 times as many children in war zones as conflict-related violence.
  • The incidence of child labour in countries affected by armed conflict is 77% higher than the global average. Conflict also makes girls more vulnerable to child marriage.

David Wright, Save the Children’s Regional Director, said that while progress is being made in many parts of the world—including in East and Southern Africa—it is not happening quickly enough.

“More than half the world’s children start their lives held back because they are a girl, because they are poor or because they are growing up in a war-zone. Early marriage, child labour and malnutrition are just some of the life-changing events that can rob children of their childhood.

“Without urgent action, we’ll never meet the promises made three years ago by every country at the UN in 2015 to ensure that by 2030 every child survives, learns and is protected.

“Governments can and must do more to give every child the best possible start in life. The fact that countries with similar levels of income deliver such different outcomes for children shows that policy, funding and political commitment make a critical difference.”

While the situation has improved in the past year in 95 of the countries ranked, alarmingly, conditions worsened in about 40 countries, according to the End of Childhood Index.

Save the Children is calling for increased support and commitments to end child marriage from key national and community leaders, as well as investment to conduct research that ensures best practices to eradicate early marriage are shared across the region.

The child rights agency is also demanding those involved in conflicts – or those with influence over them – engage to end all violations against children, and urging governments and donors to fund children’s post-conflict recovery.


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