© UNICEF/HQ07-0159/Pirozzi

A girl waits to be attended at a UNICEF-assisted health centre in the conflict-affected south-eastern region of Chad. The centre is operated by the Italian NGO COOPI.


Conflicts, natural disasters and, most crucially, endemic poverty continue to create insecurity and instability in the West and Central African region. Nearly 1 million1 people are displaced by conflict in West Africa alone. As in previous years, undernutrition and lack of food security continued to be primary concerns where in 2008 an estimated 1.4 million under-five children will suffer from acute undernutrition in the Sahel, with over 380,000 suffering from severe acute undernutrition. In 2007, an unusually severe rainy season resulted in one of the worst cases of flooding in West Africa in 10 years. More than 600,000 people in 14 countries were affected.


In addition to being the cluster lead for nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene, the UNICEF West and Central African Regional Office (WCARO) co-chairs consultative groups on education and health. UNICEF-supported programmes are expected to reach at least 6 million children and 4 million women in 2008.

In collaboration with other UN agencies as well as NGOs, WCARO will continue to respond to the needs of people affected by conflicts and natural disasters, as a core component of its regional humanitarian programme.

Strengthening emergency response to natural disasters and other rapid onset emergencies (incl. contingency planning and regional surge response capacity): WCARO will continue to reinforce regional- and country-level capacity in the areas of emergency preparedness and response in small-scale emergency contexts. It will particularly focus on building the capacity of Regional and Country Office preparedness and response to floods and other sudden onset natural disasters that may arise in the coming year.

Health and nutrition: Approximately 1.4 million under-five children suffering from acute or severe acute undernutrition throughout the Sahel will benefit from an emergency nutrition project involving regional support. In Cameroon, approximately 100,000 under-five Cameroonian children and 2,000 under-five Central African Republic (CAR) refugee children with acute or severe acute undernutrition will benefit from both prevention and management initiatives. To address the 37,737 cases of meningitis reported from January to July 2007 in 12 WCARO countries, UNICEF will reinforce preparedness and response to future epidemics ensuring the availability of polysaccharide vaccines, first-line drugs, and laboratory supplies and equipment, among other related initiatives.

Water, sanitation and hygiene: WCARO will enhance its regional water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) response in four select countries prone to recurrent cholera, floods and droughts. Collaboration between WASH and nutrition will target the most vulnerable communities to encourage healthy behaviour and improve water supply and sanitation conditions in order to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea and the prevalence of water-based helminthiasis. Environmental and behavioural risk reduction action plans aim to diminish the occurrence and incidence of cholera outbreaks in select hotspots. Lastly, the development of a regional online WASH cluster information and knowledge management network will benefit WASH sector cluster partners.

HIV/AIDS: UNICEF WCARO will target vulnerable adolescents in several West African countries in order to prevent HIV/AIDS. This will be accomplished facilitating the access of internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees and host communities to accurate information and services, in particular building the skills of adolescents and young women. Other initiatives include support to adolescent centres; production of materials; training of peer educators; and promotion of sensitization and communication programmes.

Child protection: A total of 932,000 Guinean women and children, and Liberian and Ivoirian refugees will benefit from initiatives aimed at reducing morbidity and mortality rates. Children affected by armed conflict in Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and Côte d’Ivoire will benefit from disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) lessons learned during the Liberia and Sierra Leone DDR processes. Training on family tracing and reunification will improve the effectiveness and coordination of these techniques in eight WCARO countries. Community-based reintegration initiatives will target 250 girl mothers associated with the armed forces in Liberia and Sierra Leone. An inter-agency cross-border initiative built on the Mano River Union and Côte d’Ivoire’s experiences will benefit children enlisted into armed forces as well as populations moving across borders in Cameroon, CAR, Chad and the Sudan. Inter-agency action-research will be undertaken for child protection in mobility situations in the border areas between the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea will be the first countries identified as part of a broader roll-out of child protection in training on emergency preparedness, including psychosocial training of trainers. Lastly, a coordinated strategy to build the capacity of educators in emergencies aims to prevent conflict and build peace in all West African countries.

Education: UNICEF WCARO will construct a total of 58 temporary learning spaces and 36 permanent classrooms in support of CAR refugee children in Eastern and Northern Cameroon; train 94 teachers; procure 2,000 school benches; and procure and distribute early childhood development (ECD) and ‘school-in-a-box’ kits.

Regional Office financial needs for 2008
Sector US$
Strengthening emergency response to natural disasters and other rapid onset emergencies (incl. contingency planning and regional surge response capacity) 1,091,400
Child survival and nutrition 7,489,478
Water, sanitation and hygiene 4,215,800
Education 1,147,975
HIV/AIDS 909,500
Child protection 2,196,800
Total* 17,050,953

* The total includes a maximum recovery rate of 7 per cent. The actual recovery rate on contributions will be calculated in accordance with UNICEF Executive Board Decision 2006/7 dated 9 June 2006.

1 Exact figure is 972,390. Source: UNHCR West Africa Displaced Populations Map, including refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers, found at$File/ocha_IDP_afr070913.pdf?OpenElement.