Solidarity and support for ALL families on International Day of Families

The world must extend relief to the families of sub-Saharan Africa as they battle the COVID-19 economic crisis

By UNICEF
Two young girls holding toys and wearing protective face masks; their mother in the background
UNICEF/UN0392795/Ziavoula
15 May 2021

Across Sub-Saharan Africa, like everywhere in the world, children are at the heart of our families.

Today, we celebrate International Day of Families, and it’s the ingenuity, creativity, and sheer determination of families across the region that we especially want to recognize.

Kampeo Lowata fills a plastic bottle with water outside a building in Nimule Town, on the Ugandan border. His wife, Regina – breastfeeding their baby daughter Anita –his 3-year-old son, Angelo, and his 5-year-old daughter Election, are with him.
UNICEF/UN026720/Everett

However, we cannot do so without addressing the glaring inequities that impact sub-Saharan African families at every level – from the digital divide and income disparity, to the lack of social services or even a basic safety-net that has become so crucial in the time of COVID.

In the last 18 months, we’ve seen the biggest decline in economic indicators ever recorded across Sub-Saharan Africa and the loss of tens of millions of jobs – making it harder than ever for families to provide for themselves.

A girl carries her baby sibling through a haze of dust in Sidi Village, in Kanem Region, Chad.
UNICEF/UN0358553

The pandemic has compounded the pre-existing challenges that African families were already facing. In the Sahel region, temperatures are rising faster than in any other place on the planet.

On 24 January 2021 in Sofala Province, Mozambique, a child carries an empty bowl, standing in line with others during a food distribution at Tica Relocation Center, 80 kilometres from the city of Beira.
UNICEF/UN0407011/Franco

Climate change, in addition to reoccurring conflicts, created crisis levels of food insecurity for nearly 100 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020.

On 24 January 2021 in Sofala Province, Mozambique, people queue during a food distribution at Tica Relocation Center, 80 kilometres from the city of Beira.
UNICEF/UN0407063/Franco

What is needed now from wealthier nations is more support and transformative innovations for the rapid expansion of social protection. We must ensure we navigate this storm to save lives and avoid further loss of hard-earned development gains. 

Given that 25 per cent of the world’s people will live in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2050, this is in all our interests.

Group of students in a classroom, Burkina Faso.
UNICEF/UN0429299/Tremeau

Like all parents, African parents urgently want their children to return to school as, for most, that is their only option for learning.

Supporting parents with cash transfers, similar to what has been given in most developed nations to weather COVID, will be key to enabling children to return to their education, and families to recover.

Amongst a group of women and chidren, a woman receives a paper from a man sitting behind a desk.
UNICEF/UNI162184/Frisone

Social protection for families is the quickest and most effective way to help people help themselves.

Many recipients, like Julia Tetteh, a Ghanaian mother who received LEAP (Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty) payments, use the money to grow small informal businesses helping both their families and the economy.

A woman standing in line receives a cash transfer.
UNICEF Malawi

The COVID-19 pandemic is a once in a generation crisis, one which calls for global efforts to increase coverage of social protection for all African families.

While wealthier nations have not been spared the devastation of the pandemic, they have been better equipped to protect the most vulnerable through a combination of expanded social protection and stimulus for ailing economies.