What We Do

Discover how UNICEF builds a better future for every child in West and Central Africa.

A mother and child playing, photographed against the sky

Africa's opportunity

Africa will experience a sharp rise in its child and youth populations over the next few decades – a demographic transition that offers a huge opportunity for growth and poverty reduction.

Africa’s prosperity will depend on whether children – particularly the most disadvantaged children – are prioritised in policy decisions being taken today. The policy and investment choices being made now will impact the well-being of Africa’s children and shape the continent’s future.  

Children now account for almost half of all Africa’s population, and by 2055 Africa will be home to one billion children.

By the end of the century, it is projected that Africa will be home to nearly half of the world's children.

In West and Central Africa, UNICEF works with partners across the region to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

We act at crucial moments in a child’ life, starting where a child’s lifecycle begins, in pregnancy all the way to adulthood.

 

 

Child Survival

Every woman, newborn, child, and adolescent should have an equal chance to survive and thrive.

 

 

Five Priorities

Education

Every child should complete a quality and relevant basic education

Child Protection

Every child has a right to be protected from violence, abuse, and exploitation.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Every child has a right to water, sanitation and a safe and clean community.

A Fair Chance in Life

Every child has a right to reach his or her full potential without discrimination.

Eight Key Results

In West and Central Africa, UNICEF has identified eight areas for which we will focus our efforts and investments to accelerate results for children.

Immunization

Immunization Plus

Free access to basic health care and vaccines against the six major vaccine-preventable diseases.

Hajara Abdul Rahman being weighed at a clinic in Tamale

Stunting and Malnutrition

Prevention of stunting through breastfeeding promotion, complementary foods, and micronutrient supplementation.

Girl revises her lessons at night using a head lamp

Access to Education

Inclusive access to education, expansion of early learning programmes, vocational training and national data production.

On 17 February, a girl looks up from writing during a class, in a temporary learning space in the Ngagam displacement camp in the Diffa region.

Quality Learning

Improved teaching skills, quality standards, life skills programmes and early learning assessments.

Boy in a UNICEF-supported reintegration centre for children associated with armed groups

Violence and Exploitation

Prevention of sexual violence, violence in and around schools, and physical violence, including during conflict and other disasters.

In 2007 in Niger, a girl smiles in the city of Agadez, capital of Agadez Region. She is a member of the Fulani ethnic group.

Child Marriage

Advocating for laws and policies to protect women and girls affected by female genital mutilation/cutting and mobilization of communities to change behaviour.

Baby happy with her birth certificate

Birth Registration

Increasing birth registration rates through the health system and in remote communities, as well as modernizing civil registration and vital statistic systems.

Girl takes a bath in a plastic bathtub

Sanitation and Open Defecation

Eliminating open defecation by changing social behaviour and building basic and well-managed sanitation systems in poor communities.

Convergence

These results will be achieved through convergence – rather than a focus on traditional sector strategies – so there are multiple opportunities to reach children. 

This approach focusses on key stages during a child’s life: the early years in the community, the school years and adolescence. For example, a child could receive a birth certificate at birth, when she comes in for immunization or other treatment, or when he registers for first grade at school.

On 30 March, Community Health Worker Osman S. Koroma (centre, in yellow shirt) smiles with women in a mother support group in Kathirie Village in Safroko Limba Chiefdom, Bombali District.

Early Years in the Community 

Help to deliver immunization, prevention of stunting, birth registration in children under five, and campaigns against open defecation and for handwashing

On 20 January, 18-year-old Mariatu Bangura kisses her son, Abdulai Kamara, at home before leaving for school, in Rokupr Town in Kambia District.

School years 

Facilitate access to quality primary education and completion of secondary education, especially for girls. It provides opportunities to roll out campaigns against early marriage, deliver water and sanitation, and promote birth registration, adolescent health, and protection against violence and abuse.

Students are hanging out outside their school in the village of Odienné, in the northwest of Côte d'Ivoire.

Adolescence 

Offers an opportunity to reach children with integrated campaigns against female genital mutilation/cutting, child marriage, protection from violence and exploitation, including in humanitarian contexts, with emphasis on out-of-school adolescents, particularly girls.

Stay up to date

Read all the latest news and stories from the region including photo essays, blogs, inside stories and videos.