Education & Health

Promoting universal, quality health coverage and supporting national efforts to enable all girls and boys to complete primary and secondary education equitably.

We cannot build a resilient and progressive nation if we do not have access to basic services, especially health, education, nutrition clean water.

  • The Sahel is marked by conflicts, particularly in the Liptako-Gourma and Lake Chad regions, and instability of increasing complexity. This threatens access to basic services, which have always been relatively scarce.

    A child who is out of school means unrealized potential and missed opportunities. Children should have the chance to develop skills and acquire the knowledge and values they need to become responsible and productive adults. But to be able to go to school, a child should be healthy. Access to safe drinking water, as well as sanitation and hygiene awareness campaigns, help to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, including acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria and measles. These diseases are the main causes of maternal and child mortality in the Sahel and more generally in Africa. Local health services are often chronically lacking.

  • A web of inequalities acts as a barrier to universal quality care. Discriminatory social norms translate into attitudes, behaviours and ultimately laws, which particularly disadvantage women and girls.

    In a world now threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, investments in health systems and extensive awareness campaigns are more necessary than ever in the Sahel. Close coordination between health and humanitarian operations are essential to mitigate the far-reaching consequences of the pandemic and ensure a coherent and effective response to protect the most vulnerable. United Nations agencies are working in coordination with national authorities and regional partners to support their responses in the fight against COVID-19.

Providing education for children in emergencies

Education is a major challenge in conflict-affected countries.

  • In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, more than 8 million children between 8 and 14 were out of school in December 2019. When violent extremists target education, it becomes impossible to ensure safe schooling in the traditional sense of the term. The risk of attack creates fear in local communities, forcing schools to close, teachers to flee and children to stay at home. But even in these desperate times, innovative approaches can provide solutions.

  • For example, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with governments in West and Central Africa to provide new teaching and learning tools. As part of the “Education can’t wait” initiative, it is diversifying educational options, to reach children wherever they are.

  • Dori, Burkina Faso, June 2019 – UNICEF / Vincent Tremeau
  • Hussaini*

    14 years old, able to continue his schooling through the radio education programme in northern Burkina Faso – UNICEF

    “I was in class in my village when we heard people shouting. Then some people started shooting. They shot at our teachers and killed one of them. They set fire to the classrooms. I was scared. Then we ran away. My father said we have to leave. And we left with my parents, my grandparents, my sisters and brothers. I used to love school, to read, to count and to play during recess. I haven’t been to school for a year. One day when I was playing ball with my friends, some people came up to us and said they will give us a radio to learn. That’s great. The whole family listens to the radio lessons now with programmes in Fulfulde, Songhai and Tamashek. – The focal point for radio education – Abdoulaye* (The focal point for radio education) is helping us. He is like a family member to us now. We learn to read, write and do maths. I hope peace will return so all the children will be able to go back to school. I miss my friends and hope all of them are well and alive.”

    * First names have been changed.

  • Salou

    7 years old, internally displaced in Mali and enrolled in a school in Bamako – UNESCO / UNFPA / UN Women

    Salou arrived at the Dialakorobougou IDP site near Bamako in May 2018 with his seven siblings and parents. Originally from the central region of Mali, the family had to flee violence. Their village was looted and burned. Salou used to work with his father on their farm and had never been to school. The first school was located more than 2.5 kilometres from his village. So this is the first time he is going to school in his life. A total of 70 children like Salou from the IDP camp have attended nearby schools. They have received school kits containing uniforms, school bags, as well as notebooks and teaching materials.

  • Dialakorobougou, Bamako, Mali, February 2020 – UNESCO / Aurélia Rusek

WASH activities at the heart of the fight against COVID-19

During an infectious disease outbreak, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services are a key component in the fight against contagion.

  • In Sahel, one of the world’s most arid regions, access to these services is extremely limited, often forcing people to travel long distances to collect water. UN agencies are working closely with countries and partners to ensure that people have access to fixed and mobile hand washing facilities, soap and alcohol-based cleaning products and a reliable water supply.

  • As the current pandemic poses new and unprecedented challenges, field teams are providing direct assistance to countries to fight the spread of the virus. They have swiftly adapted hygiene promotion programmes to target a wider audience, deploying online awareness campaigns to account for social distancing rules and focusing on the different routes of infection.

  • Niamey, Niger, April 2020 – UNICEF Niger / Juan Haro
  • Amirou Albade

    President of the traditional Chiefs of Niger Association

    “We are mobilizing the maximum number of chiefs in the districts of Niamey. The message to the population is clear: there is no medicine against the virus; the only way to save lives now is to follow preventive measures. It’s a time of solidarity, not division. Everyone, individually and collectively, must take action to prevent the spread of the virus into the community.”

    With UNICEF support, traditional leaders, neighbourhood chiefs and town criers are joining forces in Niamey, Niger.

Birth registration in Cameroon


Every year, about a third of children in Cameroon are not registered at birth.

  • Rural areas are particularly affected, with a birth registration rate of only 48% compared to 81% in urban areas. The birth certificate marks the beginning of a child’s life in legal terms. This omission exposes children and deprives them of a number of rights, including nationality (they are stateless) and education (the child cannot go to school) or the right to vote.

  • This project aims at a thorough reform of the national civil registration system. The goal is to increase the rate of birth registration, particularly of new-borns, in two pilot areas in the Far North and East, where the most acute problems are found. The relocation of civil registry offices to health facilities enables mothers to register their baby’s birth soon after delivery.

  • Maroua, Far North region, Cameroon, March 2020 – UNICEF / Aurélia Rusek
  • Bakary Bouba

    Secretary of Civil Status at Maroua Hospital in Cameroon

    “This region is highly marked by customs and habits. Sometimes husbands don’t want their wives to go out to collect their child’s birth certificates. And often they don’t want to make birth certificates for girls because they say that making a birth certificate is for going to school, and if the girl doesn’t go to school then there is no problem because at a certain age she will be married anyway. But fortunately with the support of UNICEF, and the awareness campaigns, mentalities are starting to change. The number of birth registrations at the commune level has already increased a lot since the project was set up.”

  • Mapsatou Zakariyahou

    Mother of a 3-month-old baby boy in Maroua, Cameroon

    “I believe that the birth certificate is very important so my child will be able to go to school. I didn’t have the chance to go to school myself. When my first child was born, it was my husband who went to the town hall to get the birth certificate. But this time, it is much easier for me to come and collect the birth certificate at the hospital where I gave birth because the documents are already ready and I can collect them when I come for my child’s vaccination.”

  • Maroua, Far North region, Cameroon, March 2020 – UNICEF / Aurélia Rusek

Malaria control in Chad


In 2018, 93% of the world’s malaria-related deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report.

  • Pregnant women and children under 5 are particularly at risk in Chad, accounting for 70% of the country’s malaria deaths.

    To fight malaria, UNDP, in partnership with the Global Fund, is working in three areas: prevention and awareness raising, diagnosis and treatment, and national capacity building.

    In practical terms, this consists of mass distribution campaigns of impregnated mosquito nets and awareness-raising: in practical terms, this mainly consists of mass distribution campaigns of impregnated mosquito nets and awareness-raising.

  • Traditional and religious leaders, along with community health workers, help communities understand the dangers of malaria. Pregnant women are encouraged to attend four free antenatal consultations where they can benefit from a mosquito net and preventive treatment against malaria. The initiative includes chemo-prevention of seasonal malaria among children from 3 months to 5 years old in the districts of Chad's Sahelian zone. The programme provides rapid testing and free management of malaria cases in the 1,600 health facilities in the country and the strengthening of the national health system for sustainable development.

  • Tendal Sabit Island, Bol, Chad, February 2019 – UNDP Chad / Aurélia Rusek
  • Bentou Moussa

    Mother of three children in Tendal Sabit Island near Bol, Chad

    “During my last pregnancy I had headaches, I didn’t feel well so I went to the hospital. There, they confirmed that I was pregnant and they tested me for malaria. It was positive, so they gave me malaria treatment and a mosquito net. I have always preferred to give birth at the hospital rather than at home because of the risk of complications but as we live on an island, it is expensive to go to the hospital, you have to mobilise financial means.”

  • Hassane Youssouf

    Community health worker in Bol, Chad

    “My little brother died of malaria. For three days he had a high fever and he vomited so we took him to the hospital but unfortunately he died. After that, I noticed that the number of malaria cases in my community had risen sharply. That’s why I decided to become a community health worker: to raise awareness in my community about the dangers of malaria. I go door-to-door or do focus group. I follow up with pregnant women by encouraging them to go for antenatal consultations. They trust me. But here, there are still a lot of women who deliver at home because even though the visit is free, the preventive treatment is free and so is the mosquito net, there are still paid tests when they go to the hospital, such as ultrasounds exam.”

  • Tendal Sabit Island, Bol, Chad, February 2019 – UNDP Chad / Aurélia Rusek

“It is critical that governments increase investments in resilient social services, for children’s health, nutrition, access to safe water and protection, and respond, recover and reimagine a world in which every child survives and thrives – in the Sahel and everywhere on the planet.”

Marie-Pierre Poirier
UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.