Africa is the second-largest continent and is composed of about 53 countries. Compassion's Africa child development centers, started in 1980, now serve more than 317,400 children in eight countries.
Africa's 905 million people belong to more than 3,000 different ethnic groups and speak more than 2,000 languages. After many years of colonial rule, most African countries achieved independence by the end of the 1970s. Today, many countries in Africa face major problems, from famine and drought to economic hardships to epidemics of AIDS, cholera and other diseases. Ongoing local conflicts have also killed thousands of people and hampered the economic progress of African countries.
Africa is home to the mighty Sahara desert -- the world's largest desert -- which covers nearly one-quarter of the entire continent. It's also home to the world's longest river, the Nile.