State of the Ghanaian child
November is filled with a lot of advocacy for the overall well-being of children.
November 20 each year is marked as the World/Universal Children’s Day.
On this day, in 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
On this same day, November 20, 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the same.
The Convention was borne from the need to highlight children’s issues and recognise their specific needs.
For children to survive and thrive well, light must be shed on how to nurture and protect them.
These must be well understood by the adults around them who assume responsibility for their growth and development.
These adults are found everywhere that children are found.
The Nurturing Care Framework, a roadmap for action, was launched by the World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) based on empirical evidence on what children need to survive, thrive and grow up healthy and fit enough to contribute meaningfully to society.
This framework requires organised efforts by parents and caregivers, national governments, civil society groups, academics, the United Nations, the private sector, educational institutions and service providers to achieve the goal of giving every child the best start in life.
This year’s celebration offers us the opportunity to learn the facts about the survival and thriving story of the Ghanaian child.
The “Country Profiles (2023) for Early Childhood Development” document developed by UNICEF, in collaboration with Countdown to 2030 Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health, serves us with some information from studies conducted in 2021.
Children under five years of age form a whopping 13 per cent of the total Ghanaian population, with every 1,000 newborns having a 44 per cent (slightly lower than 50-50 chance) of enjoying their fifth birthday.
One in every five young children is at risk of poor development; six per cent of these children live in poverty, and 92 per cent of these children are disciplined violently, sadly.
While 68 per cent of these children were developmentally on track, eleven per cent of them were found to be having functional difficulties.
Among women who get pregnant, 263 out of every 100,000 are at risk of dying, an improvement over what used to be as high as 308 in the Country Profiles (2021) doc.
It is noted that 30 per cent of children are actually growing under inadequate adult supervision.
Out of every 1,000 adolescents, as many as 78 are likely to get pregnant.
Exclusive breastfeeding rates dropped from 53 per cent in the 2018 Country Profile report to 42 per cent.
This finding shows that more women are not exclusively breastfeeding in recent times and this is worrying, as exclusive breastfeeding is the gold standard for the newborn and babies up to six months of age.
On the front of early learning, only about a third of children under five receive some form of early stimulation at home, and 71 per cent are enrolled in early childhood education facilities.
In the 2018 report, only six per cent of children had playthings at home.
This is reported to have jumped to 50 per cent.
While nearly half of the children had storybooks at home in the report of 2018, the number has dwindled to seven per cent, possibly due to the effects of COVID-19, which left us attached to devices and online learning.
Unfortunately, there was no data on the levels of parental mental health, parental support groups and the quality of child daycare, as was also the case in previous years.
Even though child development outcomes have largely improved over the years, there is still the need to work harder to make Ghana a better place for our children.
The writer is a Child Development Expert/Fellow at Zero-to-three Academy, USA.