Aid worker educated in Rustington will be spending Christmas helping children in Africa

Aid worker Andrew Brooks will be spending Christmas in Senegal, where he is working with UNICEF.

While his parents are at home in Rustington, Andrew will be with his wife and children in Dakar, where he is based as the regional child protection adviser for west and central Africa.

Andrew, who went to Rustington Primary School as a boy, started his career with UNICEF in Sierra Leone in 1999.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

He has since gained a lot of experience as an aid worker in Cote d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka and Tanzania, as well as Senegal, where he has been since 2013.

Andrew Brooks has always wanted to work with children in Africa

His roles have included working with children released from armed groups in Sierra Leone, emergency response to the earthquake in Haiti and response to Ebola in West Africa.

Andrew said he had always wanted to be an aid worker, having been born in Africa and brought up there until he was 11, when the family moved to Rustington.

He now has a wife and three children, Emily, 12, Joseph, ten, and Samuel, seven, and they are looking forward to a traditional family Christmas Day together at their home.

UK aid is supporting UNICEF’s work in West Africa to protect children and provide critical humanitarian support to the most vulnerable people, with an additional £7million in support provided this year.

Andrew Brooks is the regional child protection adviser for UNICEF in west and central Africa

Andrew said: “We deal with health, education, water and sanitation. I work in child protection and response to violence, exploitation and abuse of children.

“In our region, that means a lot of humanitarian work with children who might be recruited to armed groups, affected by sexual violence and child marriage.

“We have the highest number of child migrants in the world and the highest amount of female genital mutilation in the world.

“Child migration is an area the UK government has given quite a lot of support for this year, trying to get them safe. Birth registration has also been a focus, trying to ensure the get an identity at birth.”

Despite the many challenges they face, including the young demographic and growing population, Andrew said there had been some successes, especially in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

“We are seeing much better systems in place to be able to provide services to children,” he added.

“UNICEF works very successfully with the government to get to the very difficult areas.”

Other achievements include strengthening child protection systems, providing education services and helping to reunite families who have been separated, with 54 children reunited with their families in Niger in the last few months alone.

Penny Mordaunt, international development secretary, said: “UK aid has been at the forefront of delivering life-saving work around the world this year, from conflicts, to natural disasters, to humanitarian crises.

“Without people like Andrew, this incredible work would not be possible and we should be proud of their enormous contribution.”