UNICEF in West and Central Africa: UNICEF programming reaches vulnerable children and families in Benin, Cabo Verde, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe and Senegal.

A region where tens of millions of people require some form of humanitarian assistance

West and Central Africa is home to just 11 percent of the world’s children — yet it accounts for over one-third of global deaths of children under 5, nearly one-third of all children who go unvaccinated and one-third of children who are out of school. 

Conflict, COVID-19 and climate change are three major contributing factors. Ongoing violence and armed conflicts in countries in the Central Sahel have displaced millions of children and families, both internally and across borders. Some 6 million children have been uprooted in recent years.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s direct and indirect impacts have hit the region especially hard, pressuring already overburdened social and health systems and threatening to undo decades of progress on many fronts. And many countries in the region face regular risks of natural hazards, such as flooding and landslides, which are exacerbated by climate change and deforestation. 

The cumulative effects of all this have left millions of children at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Outbreaks of Ebola, measles and cholera are a recurring problem, and tens of millions of people in the region need safe water, sanitation and hygiene support.

UNICEF's priorities in West and Central Africa include:

  • strengthening prevention and response to disease outbreaks

  • reaching more kids with lifesaving immunizations

  • enhancing prevention, early detecting and treatment of acute malnutrition at the facility and community level

  • prioritizing children associated with armed groups, victims of sexual violence, children who are detained and children who are separated from their families for protection and psychosocial support

  • distributing learning materials, scaling up alternative learning options (digital, radio and TV channels) for out-of-school children and supporting teachers and classrooms for reopenings post-COVID

  • improving the quality and coverage of all humanitarian services through innovative partnerships, better data and new technologies

  • helping countries strengthen systems and build capacities so they are better prepared and more resilient against future challenges

A health worker examines 1-year-old Beatrice at a UNICEF-supported health clinic in Yola, Adamawa state, northeastern Nigeria. Pneumonia claims the lives of more than 800,000 children under five every year. Nigerian children made up the highest number of those who died, with an estimated 162,000 deaths in 2018. Almost all these deaths are preventable. UNICEF works with partners to strengthen primary health care services, providing health workers with the right diagnostic tools and training — all crucial to both preventing and treating pneumonia. ©UNICEF/UNI279430/Modola

Learn more about UNICEF's global Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) plan for 2022 and why the $9.4 billion emergency funding appeal to assist 177 million children affected by conflict, the climate crisis and COVID-19 is its largest ever — and UNICEF's HAC for the West and Central Africa region.

Top photo: Girls attend school in Dori, Burkina Faso. ©UNICEF/UNI394548/Dejongh