This Country Is the World’s Worst Place to Be a Kid

Angola is filthy rich, yet most people live in crushing poverty.
Jun 24, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

Getting inside Angola is no easy task for a journalist. It took five years for New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof to get the appropriate visa, but the rare trip proved worth the wait. In this video, Kristof reveals that most people there struggle with poverty even as the country is awash in oil wealth.

Angola—a country Kristof describes as “laden with oil, diamonds, Porsche-driving millionaires and toddlers starving to death”—is the world’s worst country in which to grow up.

One in five children doesn’t live to see his or her fifth birthday in the Southern African nation of 19 million. That’s the highest child mortality rate in the world.

What’s killing these kids, figuratively speaking, is corruption. There is money in Angola, but it does not appear to help the people. Officials pocket health care funds, leaving clinics ill-equipped for basic treatment. Even at the clinics, the corruption continues: Doctors and nurses have been known to steal medicine to sell on the black market. Kristof encountered antimalarial medicines being sold on the street and had them traced to learn that they had been donated to Angola by the manufacturer, Novartis.

Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975, then scrapped through a bitter 27-year civil war that was one of the proxy battles of the Cold War, with the former Soviet Union backing a Marxist faction and the U.S. backing a rebel group. In 2007 it became one of the 12 most notable oil producers in the world when it joined the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. The oil industry today accounts for 45 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and 95 percent of its exports, according to OPEC. The Angolan economy has clocked consistent growth over the years, at a rate of about 7 percent, yet 38 percent of Angolans live in poverty, according to the United Nations.

So, Why Should You Care? Wealth disparity isn’t just a problem in Angola, but the stark situation there paints a clear picture of who really loses when corrupt leaders and corporate interests reap what they wish: The smallest, the weakest, and the poorest are crushed.

In Angola, malnutrition is the leading cause of death for children.