OCHA in 2009 Cover Download Hi-res PDF (6.4 MB)

Regional Office for West Africa (ROWA)


  • Deployed staff to major emergencies in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Guinea.
  • Helped secure CERF funding for crises across the region, responding to malnutrition, flooding and outbreaks of violence.
  • Helped improve contingency planning in several countries.
  • Provided technical support to UNCTs and HCTs, particularly in countries where there is no OCHA presence.

West Africa faces a range of complex crises, ranging from chronic malnutrition to natural disasters, such as floods. Meningitis, cholera and hemorrhagic fevers kill hundreds of people every year. The deteriorating human security environment in many countries is fuelled by socio-political instability, poor governance, rapid demographic and urban growth, and a host of other factors.

ROWA covers 16 countries, 11 of which have no OCHA presence. In many instances, the RC system does not have the means to appoint dedicated humanitarian coordination officers to liaise with NGOs and other actors during emergencies, or with the RO on regular humanitarian activities. Despite these constraints, ROWA provided effective and necessary surge capacity in response to flooding, epidemics and political violence throughout the region, while also strengthening governments’ ability to react effectively to emergencies.

ROWA deployed staff to four major emergencies in the region: floods in Benin and Burkina Faso; a dengue fever epidemic outbreak in Cape Verde; and a political crisis in Guinea. ROWA also worked with the UNCT in Senegal to secure funding for emergency operations after floods that affected over 770,000 people. The RO helped secure CERF funding for eight countries in the region, responding to emergencies including floods; meningitis outbreaks; measles; yellow and dengue fever; severe malnutrition; and political violence. In addition, ROWA provided emergency surge support to assist Chad in securing $7.5 million in CERF funds.

ROWA also provided technical support to UNCTs and HCTs to strengthen coordination, specifically in countries where there is no OCHA presence, including Mali, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Togo, Benin and Sierra Leone. ROWA also strengthened regional sectoral coordination structures, implementing a new approach in identifying humanitarian thresholds and indicators, providing key information to better assess vulnerabilities of the population in the region.

ROWA supported regional preparedness through updating or elaborating inter-agency and/or national contingency plans in seven countries, and one sub-regional contingency plan in response to the crisis in Guinea. ROWA organized inter-agency simulation exercises in two countries and trainings in IM for preparedness in five countries. With the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), ROWA mainstreamed human rights in the contingency planning tool used throughout the region. ROWA also organized the first regional UNDAC induction course in French, and worked with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Inter-State Committee Against Drought in the Sahel (CILSS) to establish a humanitarian depot in Bamako. ROWA advocated alongside WFP, WHO and UNICEF to increase inclusion of food security and nutrition to strengthen programmes managed by CILSS and the OECD-backed Club du Sahel. The RO also discussed a new ERF for West Africa with donors, which should allow small-scale, flexible financing to NGOs and United Nations agencies operating in regions affected by new crises.

With ECOWAS and OHCHR, the RO jointly organized the first regional conference on climate change and protection of human rights. This ensured the inclusion of protection issues related to climate change in the National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs) of ECOWAS countries, as well as advancing international understanding of the responsibility to protect. The outcomes served as a policy platform for ECOWAS during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. In June, ROWA and IFRC organized a consultation with the heads of national civil protection agencies from 18 countries to improve preparedness capacity ahead of the rainy season.

To strengthen gender mainstreaming in the CAP, ROWA provided gender analysis and sector-specific considerations. ROWA also collaborated with UNIFEM on planning and preparing the regional conference on climate change and protection of human rights. The conference successfully ensured that NAPAs included programmes and activities to address the most vulnerable groups affected by climate change, including women and children.

Threshold indicators to better assess vulnerabilities

To strengthen the CAP process, ROWA introduced a new approach in 2009. It identifies humanitarian thresholds and indicators to provide priority information to better assess vulnerabilities of the population in the region. Fifteen humanitarian indicators have been identified that will trigger emergency humanitarian intervention. Data have been collected at the second administrative level in each country in the region. The new approach offers humanitarian actors a comprehensive overview of the humanitarian situation throughout the West Africa region; allows improved identification of needs; and provides early indication on humanitarian risks and triggers for emergency humanitarian response and activities. It will also triage needs that require an urgent humanitarian approach. This innovative approach will span several CAP cycles and be continuously improved through methodological adjustments.