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Girls robbed of their childhood in the Sahel

Blogs 09/03/2017

By Laurent Bossard, Director, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

In Mali, Niger and Chad, 40% of children under five suffer from stunting. These children do not receive enough nutrients. Their bodies — their brains, bones and muscles — do not get enough calcium, iron or zinc or enough vitamins (A, B2, B12 etc.), so they do not have enough energy to grow and develop. Many of these children will suffer from chronic diseases and will have cognitive problems — so they won’t be able to go to school for long, if at all. As adults, they will have little chance to flourish and, secondarily, will have low economic productivity. Many will also die very young, often before turning five.

In these countries, at least 100 children out of every thousand die before reaching the age of five. That’s 10 times more than in Sri Lanka, 20 times more than in Canada and 50 times more than in Luxembourg. Why are these children dying and why are they doomed to a hopeless future? 

It’s happening because the girls in these countries — as in many others — are being mistreated.

Niger is, from this point of view, a sad textbook case. More than three-quarters of the girls in Niger get married before they turn 18 and 28% are married by age 15. About 85% of girls under 24 are illiterate and half of Niger’s girls have never gone to school. This explains why the children of these women have such poor outcomes. Everything is linked in a vicious circle of abject poverty, lack of awareness and subjugation.

Read the full blog on Development Matters

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