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Progress for Angola's Children Mixed

A national survey conducted jointly by the United Nations Children's Fund and the government of Angola shows a mixed bag of progress in health and essential services for children since Angola's long-running civil war ended in 2002.

The survey shows Angola has made good progress in five of the eight Millennium Development Goals. UNICEF Angola Representative, Koen Vanormelingen, says malnutrition rates have gone down, more Angolan children are enrolled in primary school than ever before and almost as many girls as boys are going to school.

He says child survival has improved by almost 20 percent and the proportion of child deaths due to malaria has gone down from 35 to 23 percent.

"There is emerging data now that thanks to consistent economic growth of more than seven percent per year since 2002 and to tremendous efforts and investments of the government in rehabilitation and revitalization, plus a consistent 30 percent of the budget for the social sector, there seems to be now the first data coming out that there is an improvement," he said.

Nevertheless, Dr. Vanormelingen says there are setbacks. While progress is being made in child survival, he says maternal mortality has not improved very much. He says far too many women continue dying in childbirth because there are not enough skilled birth attendants.

He says access to basic social services remains low, particularly for health and birth registration. He says water and sanitation is worsening. He warns this, combined with continued poverty, could jeopardize the gains made in child survival and development.

"Now the two main problems that Angola is facing to continue to make progress is on one hand, the fact that 87 percent of people live in slums," he said. "And, be it in urban or in rural areas, 60 percent are living for less than $2 a day… It is a very unequal society and that is a major problem. And, if they cannot solve that in the short run, it will contribute to create problems," he explained.

Dr. Vanormelingen says Angola has done the easy part of rebuilding roads, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. He says the hard part is to improve skills and to improve human capital.

He urges the government to continue to invest at least 30 percent in the social sector. And, he says, more investments must be made in social protection to reduce poverty. He adds investing in improving the skills of young people will guarantee a bright future.