A forecast 46.7 million children face another year of humanitarian need in West and Central Africa mainly due to ongoing conflict and insecurity, including in the central Sahel region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the massive displacement of women and children into Chad from Sudan.
UNICEF in the region is urgently appealing for $1.89 billion in its 2024 Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) appeal, which would help reach an estimated 24.1 million children, up from 23.5 million in 2023.
“West and Central Africa is home to a large number of critically underfunded emergencies, and some of the most neglected humanitarian crises in the world for children,” said UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Felicité Tchibindat. “Children do not cause conflicts but are powerless to stop them. We need to do more to build a lasting solution for the region’s children and give them hope as they grow up in the midst of chronic and forgotten crises.’’
More than a third of the funding requirement in 2024 is to address malnutrition in the region, and the prevalence of wasting in children under five years remains high. The Sahel countries are the most affected with several areas of Burkina Faso, Mali and north-west Nigeria showing emergency levels of child wasting that exceed 15 per cent. In the year up to the end of October 2023, 1.9 million children under five years were admitted for treatment of severe wasting across nine Sahel countries, representing a 20 per cent increase as compared to the same period in 2022. This was in part thanks to a scale up in the coverage of treatment services for child wasting, made possible by funding from donor partners.
Lack of funding remains a major hindrance to humanitarian response in the region, with UNICEF’s two most underfunded appeals globally coming from the region. The 2023 appeal for the humanitarian needs in Burkina Faso ($227 million) was only 11 per cent funded, while the $862 million 2023 appeal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo was only 13 per cent funded.
Some of the region’s humanitarian emergencies include:
- The people of Burkina Faso continue to experience a multidimensional humanitarian crisis that has worsened since 2019. More than 2 million people are displaced inside the country. A de facto blockade by armed groups of areas where more than 1 million people live or have sought refuge has deprived people of free movement and necessary supplies.
- In Cameroon, 4.7 million people (including 2.5 million children) urgently require humanitarian assistance due complex and multifaceted crises: armed conflict causing internal and cross-border displacement, intercommunal violence, disease outbreaks (including cholera and measles) and seasonal flooding.
- Violence, population movements and natural disasters continue to weigh heavily on the children of the Central African Republic. Despite some decrease in insecurity and conflict-related violence, 2.8 million people (nearly half of the country’s population) will require humanitarian assistance in 2024. This includes 1.3 million children.
- Among the recent crises in Chad has been the large influx of Sudanese refugees and Chadian returnees since April 2023. Chad hosts around half of all refugees in West and Central Africa (1 million out of 2.2 million). Protracted and rapid-onset multidimensional crises, aggravated by climate change, have created a challenging humanitarian situation for the people of Chad, and 7.6 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2024.
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to the highest number of United Nations-verified grave violations against children globally, and one of the highest numbers of internally displaced people. An escalation of armed conflict in the country is severely impacting 14.9 million children, who are harmed by recurrent disease outbreaks, endemic sexual violence and growing access constraints – all exacerbating vulnerability and heightening child mortality. Increased military operations in 2024, along with hostilities expected after withdrawal of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, will add to children’s risks.
- Mali is experiencing unprecedented and rising humanitarian needs. An estimated 8.8 million people, more than 40 per cent of the population, are projected to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2024. The departure of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is expected to be completed by 31 December 2023, and this has impacted conflict dynamics and resulted in fresh hostilities.
- The Niger continues to face a combination of crises: persistent armed conflicts, climate-induced disasters, nutritional emergencies and epidemics, all of which have been exacerbated by political instability following a military coup in late July 2023. In 2024, an estimated 4.3 million people, including 2.4 million children, will require humanitarian aid.
- Armed conflict in northeast Nigeria continues to adversely affect the lives and prospects of 7.7 million people, 60 per cent of them children. Additionally, 474,000 people in the country’s northwest and 489,000 in Benue State have been displaced due to armed violence, including farmer-herder violence.
- In four West African coastal countries (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo), children and adolescents in northern regions are facing the humanitarian consequences, including population displacement, of the spillover of the Sahel crisis. In these four coastal countries the number of internally displaced persons, returnees and refugees is now estimated at 123,000, including 36,000 children. These numbers could increase given political and conflict dynamics across Burkina Faso, Mali and the Niger.
Through the 2024 appeal in West and Central Africa, UNICEF aims to reach:
- 6.1 million children with measles vaccines
- 3.5 million children 6-59 months with treatment for severe wasting
- 5.6 million people with safe and accessible channels to report sexual exploitation and abuse by personnel who provide assistance to affected populations
- 5.8 million people with access to a sufficient quantity and quality of water for drinking and domestic needs
- 266,500 households with UNICEF-funded humanitarian cash transfers
With growing insecurity and threats to humanitarian workers in the region, UNICEF works through a large number of local actors who are crucial in negotiating access to, and promoting acceptance of aid among, the affected population and humanitarian responders.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNICEF West and Central Africa.