Children in West and Central Africa

UNICEF in the region

Polio immunization

Child and Maternal Health


HIV/AIDS in the region


Water and sanitation

Child protection


What has been done?

Over the past ten to fifteen years, UNICEF and other child rights agencies have supported numerous efforts across the region to harmonise national legislation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international child rights treaties. This work has been essential to provide a firm legal basis for developing child protection mechanisms, services and structures.

The UN Study on Violence against Children has contributed considerably to move violence against children onto the agenda of policy makers. The 3rd World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents affirmed the growing support among African governments and civil society organisations to develop effective approaches to prevent and respond to violence against children. As another follow-up to the Violence Study, regional child protection and education agencies are collaborating to address violence in schools and education settings. Responses to the increased levels of gender-based violence have been prioritised in conflict-affected areas in DRC, CAR, Chad and Cote d’Ivoire and increasing numbers of countries are strengthening government units to respond to sexual violence against children and women.

Regional efforts to accelerate the abandonment of FGM/C have benefited from the development of effective community approaches, strong government support (e.g. in Burkina Faso and Senegal), and global partnerships of multi-lateral agencies and donors. Strong regional partnerships have been built to develop systems for the prevention and response to the exploitation of children through improved sub-regional collaboration and coordination and the use of the adapted UNICEF guidelines for the protection of children victims of trafficking at national level. Regional inter-agency project to better understand child migration and mobility and to promote more effective approaches to child trafficking and exploitation got off the ground. Inter-regional study on irregular migration of children in collaboration with MENA region.

The increased attention paid to the situation of orphans and vulnerable children in order to mitigate the effects of HIV/AIDS, is strengthen alternative care and to prevent the disintegration of families through a social protection transfers and health insurance schemes. Most countries in the region have initiated some work on child justice, but most still fall short of international standards and government commitments. The Africa Report Card on birth registration shows some improvements in levels of birth registration and efforts to integrate civil registration in health services and local government.

Efforts to strengthen child protection in emergencies have focused on the reintegration of former child soldiers, 1612 monitoring, training on separated children, and strengthened coordination through the cluster approach, emergency preparedness, and mine risk education. Collaboration has been strengthened with ESAR in regard to the Great Lakes Countries.

The majority of child protection programmes continue to be focused on specific issues or groups of vulnerable children, rather than promoting a more integrated and coherent systems approach. Some social norms and beliefs hamper efforts to confront child rights violations. Few effective models and capacities exist to promote positive social norms.



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