Children are greatly affected by the post-conflict challenges faced by Côte d'Ivoire, including their right to education, protection, health and nutrition. Half the children under five suffer from moderate to severe malnutrition (2006). 172,000 children under five years die every year from malaria. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, currently estimated at 4.7 percent, is lower than previously thought, but is believed to be much higher in the war-affected areas. 74,000 children under 15 are currently living with HIV/Aids, and 450,000 are Aids orphans1 and risk to suffer discrimination.
Although school is compulsory until the age of 15, enrolment rates are low - only 55 percent in 2006.2 The quality of education has worsened since the beginning of the civil conflict. The retention rate is 52 percent and absenteeism of children can be quite high. Children have few opportunities to participate in school decisions.
Boys and girls, educated or uneducated, poor or rich, are psychologically or physically abused on a daily basis, in both urban and rural areas, in their homes, by teachers and other school staff.3 Children accused of being possessed by demons are subject to abuse by evangelical priests in the form of chaining, flogging and several days of fasting to exhort the bad spirits.4
Children are likely to witness violence as there is a general acceptance of domestic violence within the Ivorian society. Children may also be killed if they have a disability or because of traditional beliefs. In 2007, 201 minors were held in prison, mostly together with adults. They suffer from poor detention conditions and violence at the hands of staff and other detainees.5
A large number of children were sexually violated by armed forces during the war. Sexual violence continues to be signalled throughout the country,6 but impunity has prevailed so far. Girls as young as 14 years are married off against the law. Approximately one third of women and girls are excised despite severe laws against female genital mutilation. 69% of the women interviewed in a survey do not want to continue the practice as it is perceived as a bad tradition and the cause of medical problems.7
Children are trafficked8 from rural to urban areas, from north to south and across borders for forced agricultural, domestic and sexual work. 35 per cent of children aged 5 to 14 work in family-run businesses or on rural family farms. 83.5 percent of all child workers toil in hazardous conditions, mostly in the agricultural sector - on cocoa farms, in coffee, cotton, pineapple and rubber plantations. Many domestic workers, mostly girls, have migrated from the rural areas or from neighbouring countries. Working conditions are harsh and exploitation is common. While no children are currently (2010) known to be active soldiers, many are believed to still be working for combatants, by cooking, cleaning and running errands.9