The Northern Region has a total land area of about 70,384 sq. km which is 29% of the land area of Ghana. It is located between latitude 8 30" and 10 30" N and lies completely in the savannah belt. It has Togo and La Cote D'Ivoire to the East and West respectively, as its international neighbours. Further south, the region shares boundaries with Brong Ahafo and the Volta Regions, and to the north it shares borders with the two Upper Regions.
The 2000 census projection report gives the regional population as 1,820,000 at growth rate of 2.9% giving a population of 2,090,399 in 2005. It is divided into eighteen political/administrative districts headed by the District Chief Executives. The districts are further subdivided into seventy five health sub-districts. Most of these correspond with the local council zones.
This is tropical with temperatures ranging from a low of 14 degrees Celsius night temperature during the hamattan season to as high as 38 degrees Celsius during the hot dry season. The rains begin lightly in April and rise steadily to peak in August-September and gradually decline by the end of October. The dry hamattan winds engulf the whole region between December and February. In recent years the rains have been starting late, in May and peaking later in September-October.
The 2000 census report puts the population of the region at 1,820,806. At a growth rate of 2.9 per annum the estimated population for 2005 is 2,090,399.
This population is characteristically distributed in small settlements with populations of 200 - 500 people. There are over 5,000 settlements in the Region, out of which 54.4% have population less than 200 people. The distances between settlements are far apart. This peculiar pattern of distribution of population in the Region has adverse implication for service delivery, as SDHTs going on out-reach travel long distances only to reach a small proportion of their target population.
A reasonable proportion of the population is in “overseas” areas in seven of the eighteen districts namely, East Gonja, West Gonja, West Mamprusi, Nanumba South, Gushegu, Karaga and Tolon/Kumbungu districts. These populations can only be assessed from neighboring regions/districts or only during the dry season In the West Gonja and East Gonja districts, several villages are completely surrounded by the Volta Lake.
Poverty is high and widespread and many cannot afford the cost of basic health services Agriculture remains the predominant sector. With over 90% of the productive age group being peasant farmers. Mechanized agriculture is possible on this terrain although limited in practice because of the high cost of inputs. However, the peasant farmer produces the bulk of the cereals, tubers and groundnuts in the region. Sheanut is the most important cash crop in the region.
Cotton Ginnery is perhaps the only industrial sector with a high out-put level. Notwithstanding the low activity in this sector the establishment of the Intermediate Technology Transfer Unit has been a booster to entrepreneurs who depend on it for the manufacture of spares, tools etc. for their light industries. Leather tanning is also done on a large scale. A number of mining activities have sprung up in some districts, notably Bole but this is still on a low scale.
The state of the roads in the Region is generally bad. The only stretch roads that is tarred are the Buipe through Tamale to Bolgatanga stretch, a distance of about 270 Km and Tamale to Yendi stretch. Most roads are not motorable in the rainy season thus hampering outreach and other health programs. Bicycles and motorbikes are therefore more effective for out-reach activities in the Region.
There has been a significant improvement in telecommunications over the past three years; most of the district capitals can now be reached by telephone: eight out of the eighteen can be reached directly by phone. One out of the eighteen have not yet been connected to the national grid.
The region is among those with the lowest school enrolment rate, highest dropout rate and highest illiteracy rates in the country.