WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA
A woman and her newborn wait to be treated at a village health post in Bandundum Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Climate change, political upheaval and epidemics pose growing threats to the region’s stability.
September 2012 Update: UNICEF Humanitarian Action for Children [PDF]
Sahel Humanitarian Action Update, June 2012 [PDF]
Children and Women in Crisis
Emergencies pose a growing threat to stability and development in the region and in 2011, there has been a sharp increase in both political instability and insecurity, which the already fragile states of this region are ill-equipped to deal with. Epidemics affect almost every country and climate change is increasing the impact of droughts, nutrition crises and flooding. The global economic crisis is putting further pressure on food prices. Natural and human-made hazards multiply these needs and have taken a toll on infrastructure and access to basic services, hastening the spread of epidemics. Immediate epidemic concerns include the cholera outbreaks around Lake Chad Basin and in western Democratic Republic of Congo; in the three quarters of 2011, reported cholera cases in West and Central Africa were at more than 85,000, with 2,500 deaths,1 making it one of the worst cholera epidemics in the region’s history. The aftermath of Liberian elections and upcoming elections represent potential flashpoints in Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone in the immediate period extending into 2012. There is growing instability in the Sahel region, fuelled by the Arab Spring, the Libya fallout and increasing activities of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram, all compounding the humanitarian needs of children and women in the region.
Meeting Urgent Needs in 2012
UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Office will continue to provide technical coordination and improved preparedness to support country offices in 2012, with a goal of reaching vulnerable children and women throughout the region.
- UNICEF will improve and reinforce regional emergency response and build capacity funds to provide multi-sectoral rapid needs assessments in early stages of crises.
- The regional office will monitor nutrition crises and support preventive activities, along with life-saving response, in order to reduce risks for children under 5 and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- The regional WASH team will strengthen national and community preparedness through hygiene promotion. Messages in local languages will be developed regarding cholera outbreaks to improve perception and understanding of the epidemic.
- In order to adequately pre-position medical kits and vaccines, UNICEF will map areas at high risk for cholera, focusing on central and coastal areas (Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, the Niger, Nigeria and Togo) and also those at risk for measles and meningitis (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, the Niger and Nigeria).
- The regional office will provide technical assistance for education in emergencies, with particular focus on the integration of disaster and conflict risk reduction into education sector policies.
- Child protection will focus on supporting children separated from families, release and reintegration of children associated with armed groups and increasing access to basic protective services, particularly for victims of gender-based violence.
The country is still reeling from the cholera epidemic that occurred in May 2010, which resurged again in 2011, affecting more than 16,000 people. For 2012, cholera prevention activities will target 50 district health facilities, community caretaking interventions will support 10,000 people, and a further 10,000 will be provided with clinical treatment. About 5,000 children and women will be protected from meningitis through immunization and at least 28,880 severely malnourished children under 5 and pregnant or breastfeeding women will be treated for undernutrition.
Republic of the Congo
The spread of epidemics such as cholera and polio and increased exposure to infectious diseases continue to threaten the lives of 766,000 women and 1.4 million children in the departments of Brazzaville, Cuvette, Likouala, Plateaux, Pool and Pointe Noire. To lessen this crisis, 470,000 children 6 months to 15 years old will be vaccinated against measles, including children from among the 125,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Access to safe water and sanitation will be ensured through distribution of water filters kits, and construction of water points and latrines in refugee sites. Safe practices regarding the treatment of household water and personal hygiene will be promoted in high-risk regions.
The priority humanitarian interventions for 2012 will focus on response to floods in three northern regions and meeting the needs of the refugees from the Côte d’Ivoire, targeting about 25,000 people. The main WASH interventions will include the distribution of family hygiene and water kits, the installation of portable toilets and construction of emergency latrines, and hygiene promotion. In education, the focus will be on the provision of school furniture, learning and teaching materials, as well as the delivery of key messages related to promoting healthy behaviours. In health and nutrition, the provision of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, health kits, essential drugs, oral rehydration salts, vitamin A supplementation and therapeutic feeding are key interventions. Through support to children’s clubs and community-based organizations, UNICEF will provide psychosocial support to children affected by crises.
There is a high risk that the humanitarian situation could worsen given forthcoming legislative elections, which will likely increase tensions and lead to human rights violations, internal displacement and disruption of access to basic needs and services. In addition, there is persistent political and military unrest, inter-communal conflicts and influxes of refugees from neighbouring countries, as well as recurrent flooding during the rainy season (May to October) with endemic risk of cholera. UNICEF priority areas of intervention include child protection, WASH and health, as well as strengthened humanitarian coordination.
UNICEF will treat 10,000 children 6–59 months old who suffer from severe acute malnutrition.2 Another 48,000 children 6–24 months old will enrol in feeding programmes, providing nutrition supplements and therapeutic foods during the lean period. Promotion of infant and young child feeding practices, vitamin A supplementation and deworming will be supported. The education sector will strengthen training and raise awareness on emergency prevention, preparedness and response. Child protection will focus on prevention and response to family separation, gender-based violence support to child protection systems, and access to integrated services for vulnerable children.
UNICEF will ensure immediate response to cholera by providing life-saving essential medical supplies and supporting provision and use of safe drinking water, safe excreta disposal and family kits for 75,000 flood-affected people, 30,000 cholera-affected people and 150,000 displaced people, in addition to promoting hand-washing practices in cholera-prone states. Moreover, about 150,000 severely malnourished children will be provided essential nutrition supplements, including therapeutic foods, and community- based health workers in 100 feeding centres will be trained on case management of acute malnutrition. UNICEF will establish 50 safe school spaces for 15,000 children affected by flooding and violence. UNICEF will continue to strengthen and support community-based child protection networks in emergency-prone states through training on international/domestic human and child rights laws, child protection in emergencies, children and armed conflict and other protection topics. UNICEF will also address the health of children by providing vitamin A supplements and vaccinations for polio and measles.
Humanitarian Funding at Work: Highlights from 2011
As of end October 2011, US$27,349,261 had been received against the requested US$18,044,000 in 2011. Funding enabled UNICEF to increase its delivery of life-saving interventions to more than 325,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition throughout the Sahel. An additional 320,000 people were vaccinated against meningitis in Chad. A campaign to promote key messages on epidemics was delivered to affected populations in Cameroon, Chad and Mali. UNICEF responded quickly and effectively to the cholera crisis in Cameroon with hygiene promotion, supporting access to safe water and sanitation services and access to treatment. Subregional stocks supported countries during small-scale emergencies, and emergency preparedness trainings were conducted in Benin, Chad, Guinea, Liberia and Mali. The regional office supported the inclusion of education in emergencies into overall national education-sector plans and budgets. Training to governments, international agencies and country offices was provided, minimizing school disruptions during emergencies in Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Police forces and government partners received training on protecting children separated from families in areas of displacement (Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo).
Funding Requirements for 2012
UNICEF is requesting US$27,156,000 to provide technical support and coordination for humanitarian work throughout West and Central Africa in 2012. This includes US$19,866,000 to support countries not separately profiled in this Humanitarian Action for Children publication, including Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Mauritania, Nigeria and the Republic of the Congo.3
1 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ‘West and Central Africa: Cholera outbreak’, OCHA, New York, October 2011.
2 According to the July 2011 Nutrition SMART Survey, prevalence of acute malnutrition in four regions of the country exceeds 15 per cent (July 2011 Nutrition SMART Survey Mauritania).
3 A more detailed funding table can be found at www.unicef.org/hac2012.