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


Community protection mechanisms

In West and Central Africa, community mechanisms act as the frontline protection response for children and their families. Community actors play a critical role in identifying and monitoring at-risk children, mediating family and community disputes, and providing direct support for children in need of protection. They can also refer children and their families to more specialized services. Community efforts are particularly important in weak states and a lack of public investments in child protection. Community structures may not only help prevent and respond to child protection issues, but also act as pressure groups on the state for political and budgetary actions. Community-based mechanisms can either function in isolation, or are linked with formal government and NGO services. They can be child protection specific, or inter-sectoral. Many community protection mechanisms rely on external contributions, while others depend entirely on internal resources.

UNICEF WCARO’s approach to community protection requires an upstream focus. Investments in small-scale community projects without a strategy or going to national scale should be avoided. Priority actions may include: develop a national policy framework on community protection, with links to formal systems; advocate for child protection to be mainstreamed into other national community development structures; define and codify appropriate roles for community members; set minimum standards, identify minimum competencies required, establish and strengthen referral networks and national capacity building programmes. Operational mechanisms need to be in place in order to guarantee links with formal systems at local and national levels, including in respect to policies and budget allocations. Clarify what should be done in a given context to strengthen community protection mechanisms. Where are the opportunities and which investments are most appropriate? A major focus will be on the links between formal services and community mechanisms, in particular referral and communication and education for change.



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