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Poorest African nations are more child friendly

Written by Duncan Mboyah

Some of the poorest countries in Africa have put in place appropriate laws and policies to protect child rights than wealthier countries.

The countries have allocated their limited resources to the provision of basic needs for their children and the funding arrangement has helped greatly in protecting the children against exploitation and harmful traditional practices.

In a report that has just been released in Nairobi Kenya, by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), an independent pan - African policy and advocacy organization, Mauritius and Namibia are rated as the most child friendly countries in Africa.

They are followed by Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, South Africa, Algeria, Kenya, Malawi, Cape Verde, Rwanda and Burkina Faso.

The least child friendly countries are countries that have not ratified the relevant child rights treaties. Some do not even have adequate legal provisions to protect children against abuse and harmful traditional practices like early marriage.

The least child friendly countries like Guinea Bissau and Eritrea also lack juvenile systems and do not prohibit corporal punishment neither are they committed to exerting pressure in providing children basic rights.

The report shows how committed individual governments are to be well-being by assessing their performance in the protection of children through laws and policies, their budget allocation and their achievement of good outcomes for children through health and education.

The report yields surprising findings in its comparison of countries that have done well or poorly in child friendliness in relation to their economic status.

On budget spending it finds that many countries with low gross domestic product (GDP) per capita are spending greater proportion of their limited resources on sectors that most benefit children than some other countries with higher GDP per capita.

On health spending, the top investors in child heath care are the four low income countries – Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Liberia and Malawi.

The report ranked Kenya as the leading country in Africa for protecting children from harmful traditional practices, trafficking and sexual exploitation through law and policies.

Kenya is also praised as one of the countries to have banned corporal punishment in schools and penal systems. The country also has a juvenile justice system and a policy of free primary education.

Countries such as Madagascar, Burundi, Morocco, Namibia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Libya also have made sound improvement in their legal and policy foundation on child rights and policies.

“They have ratified most of the international child rights treaties, and their national laws criminalize child trafficking and sexual exploitation,” the report adds.

Malawi’s spending on health that has increased four fold over the last five years and also having one of the lowest military expenditure in Africa, comes out as the most committed country in using maximum amount of available resources for children.

The country have also self financed its national immunization programmes at a time when other countries far richer in resources than Malawi have opted for donor funds in financing health sector.

In 2004, Malawi spent 30 per cent of its total expenditure on health followed by Liberia with 20 per cent.

The ACPF challenges African governments to develop child – friendly budget, dedicate as much as 20 per cent of their budgets to health and 13 percent of GDP to education.

It further calls on countries review national laws to comply with the international standards and also ratify international and regional treaties on children and strengthen government implementation, monitoring and enforcement bodies.

“The report acts awake up call to African governments that need to do much better for their children,” says Dr, Salim Ahmed Salim, ACPF Chairman International board of trustees during the report launch.

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