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War-torn nation tops child-risk list;International

Angola

Angola is the world's worst place for children, according to a new index published by the United Nations Children's Fund.

Unicef's annual Progress of Nations report ranked child risk with a formula using five factors: under-five mortality rate; children underweight for their age, the number of children attending school; HIV infection rates; and the impact of armed conflict.

On a scale of one to 100, Angola topped the list with 96, closely followed by Sierra Leone (95), Afghanistan (94) and Somalia (92). Sub-Saharan Africa was clearly hardest hit, with a regional average of 61. In contrast, Europe's average was six.

A child in Angola only has a three in four chance of reaching its fifth birthday, then only a 40 per cent chance of ever going to school. Only one in 10 children completes primary education. Illiteracy is so widespread that no one objects to the government's failure to invest in education.

When more than 10 per cent of children are underweight, it is considered an emergency. Angola's figure is 42 per cent, yet the World Food Programme has only a quarter of its immediate funding requirements and is unable to stem the rising tide of malnutrition.

Angola is the most heavily mined country in the world, with an estimated 10 million devices. And despite the success of thecampaign to ban anti-personnel mines, they are being laid faster than they can be cleared.

December's resumption of fighting displaced more than one million people into the country's beleaguered cities. New arrivals end up squatting in derelict factories and rubbish dumps, so epidemics are common.

Despite Africa's worst outbreak of polio in years, which killed or maimed 1,000 children, an emergency national immunisation day this month took place only in the one-third of the country controlled by the government, which is home to 70 per cent of the population.

Unicef's Progress of Nations can be found at pubdoc@unicef.org

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