Rapidly changing demographics across Africa will necessitate the addition of 11 million doctors, nurses, and educators by 2030 to prevent a widespread humanitarian disaster, particularly for children, according to a report published by UNICEF on Thursday.

According to UN statistics, Africa as a whole is expected to gain 170 million children within the next 13 years, straining an overwhelmed health care and social service infrastructure that already lacks key personnel to support the population it serves.

If serious investments are not made soon, Africa could face even more dire circumstances than the ones which have already generated a migrant crisis that has killed thousands of Africans. As the countries which are experiencing rapid population growth continue to cope with economic and physical insecurity, history shows what will come to fill the vacuum. Organized crime, terrorism, war, and human catastrophe will fill whatever void the governments in Africa are unable to provide.

Investing in health, protection, and education must become an absolute priority for Africa between now and 2030,” said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “We are at the most critical juncture for Africa’s children. Get it right, and we set the foundation for a demographic dividend, which could lift hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty, and contribute to enhanced prosperity, stability, and peace.”

According to the report, “almost half of the continent’s population is under 18 years old, and children comprise the majority of the population in around one third of the 55 African Union member states.”

It almost goes without saying, but recent events in Africa should highlight the danger of spreading extremism. Groups like Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, and ISIS affiliates making inroads among militant Islamists throughout the continent are already producing prodigious death tolls. Groups like these thrive in environments of instability, and capitalize off of uneducated, underemployed young people.

The report also cited that the population of Africa will double from 1.2 billion in 2016 to 2.5 billion in 2050. Nigeria currently accounts for 20 percent of all African births. With current projections, 1 of every 13 births worldwide will occur in Nigeria by 2050.

Image courtesy of U.S. State Department