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Oct 5, 2009
Child survival improves in Ghana

Accra, Ghana. Infant and child deaths have decreased dramatically in the last two decades, according to Ghana’s latest Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS). The 2008 nationwide survey also shows increasing rates of vaccination coverage and use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

The survey of almost 12,000 households shows that currently, 50 children per 1,000 die before their first birthday, down from 64 deaths per 1,000 in 2003. The drop in under-five mortality is even more dramatic. In 2008, 80 children per 1,000 died before reaching age five, compared to 111 deaths in 2003, a remarkable 30% reduction.

For Ghana to reach its MDG 4 target of reducing child mortality to 40 per 1,000 live births further investment and scale up of child survival interventions is urgently required. Lengthening the interval between pregnancies can reduce mortality even more. About 1 in 7 children in Ghana is born less than two years after a previous birth; these infants are more than twice as likely to die in the first 12 months than children born four years after the previous birth.

The 2008 GDHS reveals almost 8 in 10 children under age two received all the recommended vaccines. Over the past two decades, vaccination coverage in Ghana has increased from 47% in 1988 to 79% in 2008. Protection against malaria, a major killer of children, has also increased markedly. In 2008 about one-third of households nationwide owned at least one insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN) compared to only 3% of households in 2003. In addition, 28% of children under five slept under an ITN the night before the survey, compared to only 4% in 2003.

Despite these marked improvements, children in Ghana continue to suffer from poor nutrition and anemia. About 28% of children under five are stunted or too short for their age, indicating chronic malnutrition. Stunting is widespread in rural areas and among children living in Northern, Central, Upper Eastern, and Eastern regions. Anemia also affects more than three-fourths of all children. Almost 9 in 10 children in the Upper East and Upper West regions are anemic.

More than one-third of Ghanaian women and men have experienced physical violence. The 2008 GDHS included questions on domestic violence for the first time, showing that women are more likely to suffer violence from their husbands and partners while men are more likely to experience violence from a male friend. Almost one in five of the women surveyed about domestic violence have ever experienced sexual violence. Fifteen percent of these women reported that their first experience of sexual intercourse was forced against their will.

The 2008 GDHS was carried out by the Ghana Statistical Service and the Ghana Health Service with technical assistance from ICF Macro, an ICF International Company, through the MEASURE DHS project. Funding for the survey was provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Ghana Statistical Service, the Ghana Health Service, the Ghana AIDS Commission, UNICEF, UNFPA, and Danida.