West and Central Africa Region 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.
- Major humanitarian crises continue to unfold across West and Central Africa, with devastating consequences on children and communities. The region is facing multiple conflicts that are resulting in escalating violence and large-scale population displacements. The worsening security situation across the Sahel is spilling over into coastal countries. Public health emergencies, food insecurity and climate shocks are increasing risks to children.
- In this regional appeal, UNICEF is requesting US$75.5 million to prepare for and respond to emergency needs in 11 countries (Benin, the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo). The water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), nutrition and education sectors represent the most significant funding requirements.
- This appeal also includes UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office support to all countries in the region for enhanced emergency preparedness and response in the nutrition, health, WASH, child protection, education and social protection sectors.
6 million people in need of nutrition assistance
4.2 million children in need of protection services
4.5 million children in need of education support
4.8 million people lack access to safe water
Funding requirements for 2023
Regional needs and strategy
West and Central Africa is home to 12 per cent of the world’s children but accounts for one third of under-five mortality globally; one third of all unvaccinated children; one third of all out-of-school children and one fifth of all stunted children in the world. Children are also particularly at risk of violence and exploitation, with only 4 in 10 children registered at birth, 8 in 10 girls and boys aged 1-14 years having experienced violent discipline, the world’s highest adolescent birth rate and 7 of the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage.
Conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon persisted in 2022 and in the central Sahel deteriorated further. The spillover effects of the central Sahel crisis into neighbouring countries (particularly Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo) are creating additional humanitarian needs. Conflicts in the region have led to massive population displacements, both internally and across borders, affecting more than 135 million people, half of them children.
Conflicts have also put children at further risk of grave violations of their rights. In recent years, the region has recorded one of the highest numbers of United Nations-verified grave violations against children in armed conflict in the world, including recruitment and use, abduction and sexual violence.
Climate shocks including floods, landslides and droughts are worsening. Seven countries in the West and Central Africa region are in the top 10 countries where children are most affected by climate change worldwide.
Throughout the region, countries are also facing multiple, simultaneous epidemics (‘multidemics’), including coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Ebola, Marburg virus, mpox, Lassa fever and recurrent outbreaks of malaria, cholera, measles, polio and other diseases.
The cumulative effects of crises and socioeconomic shocks in the region have left more than 4.2 million children under age 5 at risk of severe wasting, with record high levels of wasting in the Sahel. More than 31.9 million people are in urgent need of WASH assistance. Some 57 million children are out of school and more than 12,400 schools were forced to close by the end of the 2021-2022 school year due to insecurity.
The humanitarian strategy of the UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office is grounded in UNICEF's mandate to realize the rights of every child. Informed by the Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action, the strategy supports the most vulnerable – including women, children and people with disabilities – with humanitarian assistance through innovative multi-country partnerships with governments, United Nations agencies and local, national, regional and international organizations.
In 2023, UNICEF will provide technical support to all 24 country offices in the region to develop conflict- and gender-sensitive emergency responses and risk-informed, resilience-building programmes. Addressing escalating needs in the central Sahel and scaling up response readiness and prevention for the spillover of that conflict through building resilience in coastal countries will be critical. Emergency preparedness for multiple epidemics and climate shocks will also be a priority.
Country offices will also receive strategic guidance and support for multisectoral programming that spans the humanitarian-development-peace nexus in health, nutrition, WASH, education, child protection and social protection, including humanitarian cash transfers. UNICEF will enhance cross-cutting approaches for emergency preparedness, community engagement and accountability to affected populations and humanitarian advocacy; strengthen data and monitoring; and increase the use of new technologies. Preventing, responding to and reporting grave violations against children in the region, including recruitment and use by armed forces and non-state armed groups, sexual violence, abduction and detention will be prioritized. Efforts to prevent and protect girls from child marriage and to strengthen mental health and psychosocial support for children and parents will be stepped up. As part of these efforts, access and availability of social service workers as a front-line workforce and strengthened community-based protection mechanisms for enhanced prevention, resilience and referrals will be key investments.
All UNICEF responses will take a multi-country approach, looking beyond national borders to address interconnected humanitarian needs in the region.
Find out more about UNICEF's work
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 West and Central Africa; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.