Monitoring inequities in East and Southern Africa

June 10, 2016

While sub-Saharan Africa struggles to improve the health of its women and children, there are great differences within and among countries. The EQUINET research network promotes and monitors progress toward health equity in East and Southern Africa. Its Equity Watch report series pinpoints areas and groups that are unreached or underserved, and lays bare the social disparities undermining public health. The latest update, Regional Equity Watch 2012, notes widening social gaps alongside overall health progress in 16 countries. In some, nearly one in five children under the age of five dies in the poorest households. Even as overall child mortality has improved, the poor are faring worse. And while overall fertility rates are falling, they remain higher among teenage girls from poor and rural areas.

Besides tracking these trends, the report helps isolate the underlying factors that make a difference. Wealth matters of course – children from the poorest homes are three times more likely to be undernourished than those from the wealthiest. But maternal education matters even more – undernourishment varies by a factor of five between the households of the best educated mothers, and those with the least schooling.

The report points to a wide range of inequities that undermine women and children’s health: uneven access to safe water and sanitation; low and unequal coverage of early childhood education, child care, and secondary education; and inadequate access to land and other support for female food producers.

In publishing these periodic reports, EQUINET monitors progress and involves, informs, and prods governments at the same time. Why, the report’s authors ask, shouldn’t all children, adolescents, mothers, and households expect the same nutrition, health, and mortality outcomes as the wealthiest and best educated?

Read part 1 and part 2 of the Regional Equity Watch 2012 report.

Learn more about IDRC-supported research on maternal health