As we continue with a major policy research project in Africa, I am still amazed by some of the statistics highlighted by our researchers. The highest death rates for children under five are mostly in the countries which lack either the money or sufficient government control to do anything about it — the Central African Republic (164 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 and a per capita GDP of about $800 before its latest political convulsion), Guinea Bissau (161 deaths) and Somalia (180) but one wealthy country is a strong contender on this list of shame: Angola (158). More than one in seven children dies before her fifth birthday. Yet, Angola’s per capita GDP (national income for each person) is over US $6,500. That’s about the same as Jordan (21.5 deaths per 1,000, despite a massive refugee crisis over the past decade and a large population living in settlements for displaced people) or Sri Lanka (12 deaths, despite a civil war). Neighbouring Namibia (with a history of conflict that is almost as long) has under 5 mortality of 42; South Africa (with the a far worse HIV epidemic) is also at 42; Botswana (with the worst HIV epidemic of all) has 26 deaths per 1,000 children.
In 2004, Angola committed itself to halving under-5 mortality; it has achieved only marginal reductions. It’s all the more amazing given the level of academic activity on public health (we found five foundation or government-funded collaborations with Portugal alone) and donor funding (USAID, among others, remains very active)