NGO & volunteering

Problems in Africa

Africa is the third largest continent in the world and one of the richest in mineral resources. However, most African countries are developing. It is estimated that more than 50% of the population lives in extreme poverty. Below we show you what are the causes of this situation.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.


Malnutrition is the main problem for the African continent. It is a direct consequence of the extreme poverty suffered by African countries. By malnutrition we understand the lack of food or insufficient intake of the amount of calories, minerals, vitamins and nutrients essential for maintaining a state of health and weight according to age.

It can cause various health problems and diseases, some mild and others chronic or very serious, mostly related to developmental deficiencies and normal growth of children. The main diseases are the following:

  • Anemia: Iron is necessary for the growth of children, so the lack of it in the diet can cause irreversible delays in brain development. The most frequent symptoms are pale skin, lack of appetite, cold hands and feet, weakness, etc.
  • Goiter: The lack of iodine in the diet is what causes this disease in which the thyroid gland swells in the neck, resulting in the formation of a large mass. It can cause mental retardation in children.
  • Mellitus diabetes: is a type of diabetes associated with malnutrition that manifests itself in the long term. Its most frequent symptoms are: polyuria (urinating too much liquid), fatigue, weight loss, insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, nutritional deficiency …
  • Kwashiorkor: It is due to the lack of protein in the food that is ingested. It is a disease typical of children in underdeveloped countries whose main symptom is fluid retention, which causes abdominal distension (prominence of the abdomen).
  • Marasmus: the lack of calories and proteins results in this disease, which results in an extremely thin and fragile appearance, as well as developmental deficiencies.
Malnutrition: Africa's main problem

According to data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), currently between 3 and 5 children under 5 years die annually due to malnutrition and diseases derived from it. In fact, hunger is the leading cause of death among children, representing almost 50% of deaths of children under the age of 5, making it more lethal than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS together.

Child mortality

According to data collected by the PRB (for its acronym in English of Population Reference Bureau) in 2008, infant mortality rates in different countries of the world have declined in recent decades, a fact that has been key to the increase in life expectancy and reproductive efficiency on the planet, partly thanks to the boom of the so-called fertility tourism and assisted reproduction.

The list, led by Norway and Iceland with the best success rates worldwide, presents an average of the number of deaths of children under 1 year and 4 years per 1,000 children born. In it, the 20 countries with the worst mortality rates belong to Africa, with Niger being the one that records the most alarming data.

Similarly, improve the maternal health It is another objective of NGOs around the world. It is estimated that around 600,000 pregnant women die year after year from infections, obstructed labor or hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. 20% of the diseases suffered by children under 5 are related to poor health and nutrition in their mothers.

UNICEF estimates that the number of orphaned and vulnerable children due to the AIDS virus will amount to 25 million by the end of the decade, of which 18 million will be in sub-Saharan Africa. The foundation Save The Children It estimates that 12,000 children lose their lives on a daily basis in the African continent due to causes related to malnutrition and diseases such as malaria or diarrhea.


Although Africa is one of the richest continents in terms of landscapes, fauna and flora, the African reality is dramatic: more than 300 million people live on less than a dollar a day and at least 43% of the population does not have access to drinking water. In short, Africa is considered the poorest region in the world today, what is known as Third World.

The rural areas of Morocco They are one of the areas most affected by poverty within Africa. It is estimated that 20% of its rural inhabitants suffer from unemployment, especially among the younger population. Marginalization and lack of access to education and basic services are two other major problems plaguing the rural areas of Morocco today.

South Sudan is another of the countries where the highest poverty rates are registered within the continent and one of the poorest countries on the planet. After the period of wars, poverty began to spread rapidly throughout the territory due in large part to droughts, poor land management, poor agriculture, etc.

However, efforts are being made to strengthen the agricultural potential of this country through the initiative Purchases for Progress (P4P).

High poverty rates in Africa

Madagascar is another of the African countries with the highest poverty rates, not only because 50% of children suffer from malnutrition or stunted growth, but also because it is a region very vulnerable to natural disasters, such as floods, cyclones, droughts … These adversities are a plus to the already difficult social and economic situation in the country.

Finally, it is worth highlighting the serious humanitarian crisis that currently lives Sudan due to the various internal, religious, economic, environmental, racial and territorial political problems. Day by day, Sudanese society faces violence and armed conflict, killings and racial cleansing, in addition to the drought that has plagued the country since 2007. Since then, more than 300,000 people have died and some 2.5 million have forced to leave their homes to flee war and poverty.

Political instability

Political instability and terrorism, among others, mark the current situation of most West African countries, as well as other problems such as piracy and drug trafficking. The countries covered by this region are Burkina Faso, Benin, Ivory Coast, Cape Verde, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

Civil wars in West Africa

Since the independence of this territory, political instability has become the reality of most of these countries, especially Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia. The civil wars and the numerous coups d'état are some of the most alarming problems suffered by these countries today. All of this is a major concern for the international community, especially the United States and the EU member countries.

Although many other West African countries have managed to resolve their discrepancies by political and democratic means in order to avoid war, the truth is that there is still much to do to stop the military coups, a phenomenon still prevalent. The last episodes took place in Guinea Bissau and Mali in 2012, which resulted in the displacement of more than 200,000 people.

This region has also established itself as a base for cocaine trafficking networks. Likewise, there is frequent transit along the western coast of camouflaged ships that transport drugs from South America or Europe. This is because the cartels of these countries often use different African countries as a warehouse.

Lack of access to education

According to data provided by UNICEF and UNESCO, more than half of the children on our planet who do not go to school reside in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This figure is further increased if we focus on the case of girls from poor families, who live in rural areas or carry the weight of the home. Several UN agencies have shown that today more than 30 million children in this area do not have access to education.

Access to education in Africa for girls

UNICEF and the Nelson Mandela Foundation have promoted the campaign Schools for Africa, whose objective is to provide the necessary means for education in Africa to be taught in solid and quality schools, which does not necessarily translate into the construction of school buildings. This involves teaching the class in private homes, tents or even under a tree.

Thousands of children are forced daily to travel several kilometers to attend class in buildings whose classrooms are crowded and lack the basics. This is due to the lack of means, the infrastructure deterioration and the need to end up using school buildings for other purposes.

Although between 2000 and 2007 there were very remarkable advances, the truth is that progress has been stagnant in recent years. In addition, the quality of education provided in many of the schools built in this region is questionable, mainly due to lack of materials, inadequate facilities, poorly qualified teachers and excess students per classroom.

Precariousness of school buildings in Africa


Africa is one of the richest continents in minerals, as evidenced by the presence of large deposits of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, as well as large reserves of precious stones and minerals such as gold, copper, diamonds, nickel, bauxite … However, so many mineral resources have not avoided the numerous environmental problems that this continent is experiencing today.

The main environmental problems that affect most countries of the African continent are the following:

  • Lack of water sources
  • Drought
  • Soil erosion
  • Desertification
  • Deforestation
  • Extinction of flora and fauna
  • Degradation of forests, forest areas and grazing areas
Desertification and drought in Africa

The consequences of these problems range from the loss of biodiversity and soil fertility to the contamination of water resources. All this brings as a final consequence the generalized destruction of the habitat, which can generate a series of irreversible situations for the continent, such as the increase of economic and social imbalances.

Climate change is a phenomenon to be taken into account in this regard, since it has a very serious negative impact on food production, which at the same time promotes migration to more developed countries, affects the health of the population and to the market. The salinization of the rivers is something that brings with it permanent consequences for agricultural production and the planting of a food as basic as rice.

The most eco-hazardous countries in the long term are:

  • Kenya: three quarters of its land is semi-arid or arid.
  • Mauritania: almost 95% of its soils are hyper-arid.
  • Ethiopia: more than 2 million hectares are in a state of degradation beyond their possibilities of rehabilitation.

Health and epidemics

Health in Africa and, specifically, in countries like Mozambique is so deficient that the Ministry of Health itself has affirmed that about 60% of its inhabitants do not have access to health or medicines.

At a general level, there are more than 460 million people on the continent without access to any kind of sanitation services. These are the main reasons why, in addition to malnutrition, epidemics and other diseases are the leading cause of death. But what diseases are the most widespread in Africa? We show you below:

  • AIDS: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) records 95% of global cases, according to data published by the WHO. In 2012 alone, 1.6 million new cases and 1.2 million deaths were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Family planning in Africa
  • Diarrhea: currently, global mortality from diarrheal diseases is almost 2 million, of which 78% is recorded in Africa and South-East Asia. Infections caused by diarrhea are transmitted mainly by water with faecal contamination.
  • Malaria: 90% of global malaria cases occur in Africa, with children being the main affected by this disease. However, since 2000, cases of malaria death have decreased by 42%.
  • Respiratory infections: Although there are several respiratory diseases of the lower tract diagnosed annually, the most common are bronchitis and pneumonia, which are charged 1 million lives each year.
  • Meningitis: It is the tenth cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, although its impact has been reduced in the last two decades.
  • Syphilis: This is a very common STD in sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike AIDS, it has a relatively simple cure if treated on time; However, if it is not diagnosed in time, it can cause death.
  • Ebola: This infectious disease produces hemorrhagic fever and ends the life of the infected person in 90% of cases. Although there are currently no cases left, only in 2014 the lives of more than 900 people in West Africa were taken forward.

Given the precarious health infrastructure in Africa, the eradication of these diseases is still far away. Therefore, the help of the most developed countries is essential to save lives and increase the quality of health services in the continent.

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Finally, we have selected the previous and next article of the block "Poverty in the world"so you can continue reading:

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