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Key findings on the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Children in Western and Central Africa

©UNICEF/HQ95-0063/Jonathan Shadid - In 1995 in Burkina Faso, her baby brother wrapped in a cloth sling on her back, a girl stoops to sweep the ground in front of her hut in the village of Zitenga, in the north-eastern province of Oubritenga.

The research on the Impact of the global financial crisis on children in West and Central Africa - promoted by the Regional Office of UNICEF for West and Central Africa, in collaboration with the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre and the UNICEF Division of Policy and Practice. - proposes the following findings, resulting from the application of a combined macro-micro economic model to simulate the impact in three countries, namely Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ghana. The innovative tool can facilitate an early understanding of the impact of macro economic shocks on child well-being.

  • Evidence based on past economic crises and scattered information currently available indicate that the global economic crisis is likely to have long-term detrimental effects on the lives of children in developing countries. However, data for assessing the effect of the 2008-2009 global crisis on children are not readily available to guide the rapid implementation of policies. To address this gap an innovative research tool - a macro-micro simulation methodology drawing on (macro) economic and (household) behaviour data - was developed. It has been applied in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ghana.
  • Estimates based on this tool suggest that in the absence of new policy interventions, around 259,000 additional children are at risk of falling into monetary poverty in Burkina Faso, 173,000 in Cameroon and 630,000 in Ghana by 2011, compared with the year preceding the crisis. In Ghana, the crisis is also expected to have a significant negative effect on access to a sufficient diet, which children require for their healthy growth.
  • School attendance is expected to be affected by income shocks mainly in Burkina Faso, where around 12,000 additional children aged 7-10 are at risk of being out of school and 18,000 additional children are at risk of becoming involved in labour.
  • Different policy options to counteract the effects of the crisis were explored. Among them, targeted cash transfers to poor children appear to be the most promising in offsetting the impact of the crisis, particularly in Burkina Faso and Cameroon, while food subsidies are expected to be less efficient in improving the situation of poor children, especially in Cameroon.
  • Universal or regionally targeted transfers to all children aged 0-5 are a potentially effective way to intervene relatively quickly and cost-effectively to reduce child poverty and deprivation. Especially in countries where cash transfer programmes are not yet in place and where institutional capacity is weak, a universal or regionally targeted approach may be recommended as it is easier to implement than a means-tested cash transfer scheme for poor children.


Research briefs

  • Global Economic Crisis and Children: Effects and policy options in West and Central Africa

Photo gallery

A girl holds her lunch pail

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0953/Olivier Asselin - A girl holds her lunch pail at Nyologu Primary School in the village of Nyologu in Savelugu-Nanton District in Northern Region. Students are fed a hot meal each day through a national school-feeding programme supported by the World Food Programme - Ghana