The West and Central Africa region is home to 67 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including 37 million children. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is placing additional pressure on already overburdened social services, worsening the situation of vulnerable populations.
The UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office will provide strategic guidance and technical support to countries in the region facing emergencies this will support programming in nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection, education and social protection, as well as cross-cutting areas such as community engagement, resilience and emergency preparedness. To respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF will support countries to prevent its spread; control and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic; and ensure continuity in the delivery of essential social services for women and children.
UNICEF is appealing for US$70.5 million to provide technical support for humanitarian assistance across the region, including to address the significant WASH and education needs; respond to the COVID-19 pandemic; and facilitate emergency preparedness and response in 2021. Seven countries are directly covered by this regional appeal.1
The direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are threatening to reverse the hard-earned development gains made in West and Central Africa in recent decades. The dramatic disruptions to child-centred social services have had major consequences for vulnerable children and their families. The region is home to 11 per cent of the world’s children but accounts for 35 per cent of global under-five deaths; 42 per cent of maternal deaths; 30 per cent of unvaccinated children (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis 3); 19 per cent of stunted children and one third of all out-of-school children (primary and lower secondary).10
Conflicts in the Central Sahel – which are now at risk of spilling over into neighbouring coastal countries – the Lake Chad Basin, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon, have led to massive population displacement, both internally and across borders. Over 10.9 million people are displaced, including 6 million children who have been uprooted from their homes.6 Across the region, 67 million people need humanitarian assistance, including 37 million children and over 33 million women.11 The cumulative effects of climate change, violence and the COVID-19 pandemic have left more than 4.9 million children under 5 years at risk of severe acute malnutrition (SAM).8 Education remains under threat across the region. COVID-19 and the measures taken to respond to it have temporarily quadrupled the number of children who are out of school. Some 128 million children are newly out of school (pre-primary to upper secondary), in addition to the 41 million children (primary to lower secondary) who were already out of school.9 Across the region, 30.5 million people now urgently need WASH assistance.7 The region is seeing recurrent disease outbreaks, including of Ebola, cholera and measles. Many countries face regular risks of natural hazards such as flooding and landslides, which are exacerbated by climate change and deforestation.12