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Build Back Better Lives: Advocacy Note - Protecting children from grave violations in West and Central Africa

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What protection concerns do children face in West and Central Africa?

Major humanitarian crises continue to unfold across the West and Central Africa region. 57.5 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance, a figure that has almost doubled since 2020, due to a surge in armed conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Children are trapped behind conflict lines, facing violence and insecurity. The region is volatile with an increasing number of both new andprotracted armed conflict. The situation in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and cross-border emergencies, including the crises in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin region, are having devastating humanitarian consequences on children and communities. As non-state armed groups and conflict spill across borders, they have also fueled intercommunal violence, with civilians and children often the most affected.

Over the past five years, the West and Central Africa region has consistently had some of the highest numbers of United Nations verified grave violations against children in armed conflict. Since 2016, it has been the first region in the world in terms of number of children verified as recruited and used by non-state armed groups (with more than 21,000 violations) and victims of sexual violence (with more than 2,200 violations), and the second region in terms of abduction (more than 3,500 violations).

Since 2016, with more than 1,500 verified incidents, West and Central Africa also remains one of the regions the most affected by attacks on schools and hospitals. In 2020, three of the five countries most affected by this violation were in the region.