Response in Coastal Countries Linked to Central Sahel Crisis Spillover Appeal
Humanitarian Action for Children
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
Response in coastal countries linked to central Sahel crisis spillover snapshot
- Children and adolescents in the northern regions of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo are facing the humanitarian consequences, including population displacement, of the spillover of the central Sahel crisis. Basic services are becoming overburdened, with schools and health facilities closing or functioning at minimum capacity, even as people are also coping with public health emergencies and such climate-related disasters as floods.
- UNICEF will ensure emergency preparedness and response in affected areas while simultaneously strengthening national and local capacity and resilience to cater to the movements of refugees and internally displaced persons and support the communities that are hosting them.
- UNICEF requires $68.4 million to provide humanitarian assistance to 1.6 million people (refugees, internally displaced people and affected host communities), including 994,000 children. Needs are particularly acute for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection and education services. Supporting basic services will contribute to longer-term, sustainable solutions for these vulnerable communities.
Key planned targets
380,611 children vaccinated against measles
233,254 primary caregivers receiving infant and young child feeding counselling
404,435 children receiving individual learning materials
609,676 people reached with critical WASH supplies
Funding requirements for 2024
Humanitarian needs and strategy
The spillover of the crisis in the central Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Mali and the Niger) has become a permanent threat to northern communities in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. Between January 2021 and October 2023, 882 security incidents were reported in the northern regions of these four coastal countries, including the emerging use of improvised explosive devices. This situation is progressively leading to more restrictions on social services and markets and a reduction in economic activity, which is also causing movements of populations internally and across borders.
Growing insecurity is forcing families to flee and is impacting negatively on the well-being and development of children and their families. In these four coastal countries, the number of internally displaced persons, returnees and refugees is now estimated at 123,000, including 36,000 children. These numbers could increase given political and conflict dynamics in the central Sahel countries.
The frequent cross-border and internal displacement of populations has placed pressure on already weak social services (health, nutrition, education) and has made access to limited vital resources (food, drinking water, housing, etc.) very difficult. This impacts refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities alike. It also heightens tension among communities and in some areas has lead to prejudice and violence against minorities. For host governments, the control of borders and the maintenance of safety and security in a volatile regional context is a primary concern. This has led at times to movement restrictions for affected populations and for humanitarian actors, impacting both access to services and the continuity of service provision.
An increasing number of schools have been obliged to close or are unable to function due to insecurity and other life-threatening events. This has put children and adolescents out of school and at risk of exploitation (child labour), child marriage, migration (including by unaccompanied and separated children) and gender-based violence, with a disproportionate burden on adolescent girls. In Benin, 33 schools were closed due to insecurity at the end of June 2023, affecting 4,321 students (including 1,669 girls), compared with 9 closed in December 2022. A 2022 nutrition survey in Togo showed a prevalence of wasting approaching the 10 per cent critical threshold in the areas bordering Burkina Faso.
Coastal countries are also subject to other shocks and have experienced recurrent flooding and health epidemics that have aggravated existing vulnerabilities of affected communities. These are expected to have a long-term impact on hygiene, sanitation, livelihoods, social infrastructure and public health.
In line with its Strategic Plan, 2022–2025 and the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, UNICEF’s humanitarian strategy for these four coastal countries (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo) is built around ensuring emergency preparedness and response to humanitarian situations, while simultaneously looking for opportunities to strengthen national and local capacities, systems and services and build community resilience to meet needs linked to the influx of refugee and internally displaced populations. UNICEF applies a gender-sensitive approach and promotes the participation of communities and youth.
The humanitarian response in the coastal countries is multisectoral. Integrated interventions encompassing health, nutrition and WASH are a priority; and education, child protection and mental health and psychosocial support are also critical. UNICEF promotes localization by strengthening the capacity and resources of local organizations to lead humanitarian responses and deliver aid.
UNICEF will pursue a humanitarian–development–peace nexus approach to develop resilience and support social cohesion among communities. UNICEF acknowledges host governments' efforts to provide basic services in northern regions affected by the central Sahel crisis spillover and to undertake integration processes for host communities and new arrivals.
To provide high-quality programmes for children in the region, UNICEF will keep investing in information management and knowledge exchange, regular needs assessments, the close monitoring of humanitarian response and evaluations. Using its risk monitoring dashboard, UNICEF will build evidence-based interventions supported by data collection, analysis and crisis mapping, and will sustain advocacy and release communication products to raise the attention of coastal countries.
UNICEF’s strategy in these four coastal countries is closely aligned with the 2024 regional response plan for Gulf of Guinea countries designed jointly with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Programme to have a joined-up, complementary response to address the needs of children and families affected by the spillover of the central Sahel crisis.
Such cross-cutting issues as protection from sexual exploitation and abuse and accountability to affected populations are strongly prioritized. Disability inclusion will be systematically pursued. Social and behaviour change remain an integral component of UNICEF's humanitarian strategy.
UNICEF will continue to support preparedness and contingency plans using timely monitoring and the generation and management of humanitarian information, with increased utilization of smart technology for forecasting and risk analysis.
Anticipatory action, human resources support and pre-positioning of supplies will also be part of UNICEF's strategic approach.
Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting children in coastal countries liked to the central Sahel crisis spillover; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.