UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. To save their lives. To defend their rights. To help them fulfill their potential.

Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, every day, to build a better world for everyone.

And we never give up.

For every child, a voice.

Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) is home to a large and rapidly growing population of children and adolescents, many of whom experience multidimensional poverty worsened by COVID-19. While important progress has been made in ESA toward the child-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), most remain off track and critical progress in poverty reduction and social development sectors has stalled or worsened in the pandemic context. Children and adolescents in ESA need urgent dedicated investment and prioritized action to prevent the loss of prior gains and see progress in the near future[1]. The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) indicates that children and adolescents in all 21.

countries in ESA live in high or medium risk of environmental, social and health impacts of climate change. The region is affected by several climate change hotspots where strong physical, psychological, and ecological effects of climate change come together with large populations of poor and vulnerable communities, with significant impact to insecurity and conflict often leading to mass population displacements. Persistently high levels of poverty and malnutrition and frequent disease outbreaks (cholera, Ebola, measles, among others) further exacerbate those humanitarian needs.

Countries in ESA have made gradual progress in reducing under-five mortality in the last three decades, however with mixed results. In 2019 alone, approximately 1 million underfive children died, mostly of preventable and treatable causes, with about 44 percent occurring in the first month of life. Coverage of Penta 3 vaccine had increased from 76 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2019. However, with COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 saw a drop in Penta 3 vaccine coverage back to the 2010 level. The number of children that have not received the first dose of Penta vaccine (zero-dose children) has been steadily increasing to 3 million in 2020, the highest estimate since 2001. While stunting prevalence is declining very slowly in ESA from 33.9 percent in 2017 to 32.3 percent in 2020, the number of children with stunting has not declined, as the rate of decline in stunting prevalence is too low to keep pace with the rate of population growth. In fact, the current number of stunted children in the region (28 million) is the same as in 2000. No country in the region has a stunting prevalence lower than 20 percent, and 5 countries have prevalence over 40 percent. In addition, with the current Horn of Africa drought Level-3 emergency, the number of children with moderate and severe acute malnutrition is increasing exponentially. The quality of child diets remains extremely poor, and in the majority of countries, upwards of 20% of children under 5 live in severe food poverty, consuming two or fewer food groups per day.

Harmful social and cultural practices and ongoing discriminatory gender norms tend to reinforce social inequality and further exacerbate vulnerabilities especially among women and girls. Overall, progress in maternal and young child health, nutrition and wellbeing is constrained by limited knowledge and suboptimal practices and attitudes around feeding, hygiene, and health-seeking behaviours among caregivers. It has also been observed that norms and cultural practices limit the types of foods that are produced through subsistence agriculture and the animals that are kept, which reduces the availability of nutrient-dense foods that children need. Furthermore, the limited interpersonal communication skills among health service provider and frontline workers along with the lack of investment in community systems, tends to negatively impact on the demand and use of services.

Since March 2020, all 21 countries in ESA region are mobilised to respond to the corona virus (COVID-19) and since 2021 to support national governments to introduce the COVID-19 vaccines. The SBC section in the Regional office (ESARO) is providing support to the 21 ESAR countries to design, implement, monitor and evaluate Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) plans in support to the response. In reinforcing provision of real-time lifesaving information, RCCE is at the forefront of UNICEF emergency response, hence ensuring that people know what to do to protect themselves and others against various diseases.

Between 2020 and 2022, as UNICEF stepped forward as a leader in RCCE for the global COVID-19 response, the need for robust Social and Behaviour Change programmes to curb the spread became clear. UNICEF began a strategic shift – repositioning and elevating its large Communication for Development (C4D) network to support the delivery of higher-quality Social and Behaviour Change programmes at scale. This corporate change relies on the adoption of a new business model that includes improved institutional positioning, governance, partnerships, and operational and programmatic modalities.

UNICEF needs to urgently strengthen its Social and Behaviour Change (SBC) function, to respond to the growing importance of quality people-centered approaches and implement science-driven change programmes, requiring the expansion to new territories beyond communication and into more applied behavioural science. This aligns with the Social and Behaviour Change and Community Engagement dimensions in the 2022-2025 UNICEF Strategic Plan which will be both leveraged as core change strategies and critical result milestones in support to the accelerated efforts toward the SDG achievements at country level.

[1] UNICEF ESARO Collaboration for Children, May 2022

How can you make a difference?

Under the supervision of the Regional Adviser, Social and Behaviour Change and in close collaboration with the Chiefs of Nutrition, Health and WASH, the SBC Specialist is responsible for assisting selected UNICEF Country Offices in ESAR in the design, management, monitoring and evaluation of evidence-based, human-right oriented and measurable behaviour and social change strategies to increase community engagement, social accountability, and demand and uptake of high-impact health and nutrition services and practices, both in development and humanitarian contexts. In the context of multiple Level 2 and Level 3 emergencies in the region, including the Horn of Africa Drought, multiple public health outbreaks and the recent increase in zero-dose communities in ESAR, the incumbent will contribute to reinforce the design, implementation, monitoring and measurement of SBC interventions to address the multiple deprivations and hazards faced by communities. The incumbent will also support selected country offices to reinforce capacity to design contextualised tools/methodology to collect social and behavioural data/evidence to inform SBC interventions.

Major Duties and Responsibilities

The incumbent will have the following major duties and responsibilities:

  • In line with the Global Community Engagement Standards, and in order to reinforce community engagement both in development and humanitarian contexts, provide technical support to selected UNICEF COs involved in emergency response in the design and implementation of evidence-based SBC plans of action aiming at: (a) Behaviour and social change at individual/household and community levels in key behaviours related to child health and nutrition, with a special focus on the uptake of life-saving nutrition services in emergency, adoption of infant and young child feeding practices, norms and practices around improved food production/animal husbandry and health seeking behaviours with a focus on routine immunization and engaging zero-dose communities; (b) Increased community participation in child nutrition, health and hygiene intervention; and (c) Reinforced systems to collect community feedback and social listening data, and ensure optimum social accountability.
  • Provide SBC technical inputs into the implementation of a regional Social & Behaviour Change Strategy for nutrition, looking at both drivers of stunting in the region, as well as addressing (with a focus on SBC preventive efforts) wasting and moderate and severe acute malnutrition in emergency-prone or affected countries (e.g. Burundi, Madagascar, South Sudan, among others) and with a focus on the Horn of Africa Drought (HoA) L3 emergency (Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia). Support ESAR COs in informing SBC preparedness plans, develop funding proposals, design evidence-based community engagement interventions and assist with institutional capacity building of government, academia and other key stakeholders on SBC approaches.
  • In close coordination with the ESARO nutrition team and other data specialists, support COs to reinforce collection and use of both qualitative and quantitative evidence and data to (1) design socially relevant SBC plans/interventions with robust M&E frameworks; (2) adjust existing programming and fund mobilisation regional initiatives and (3) more systematically monitor progress and learn from SBC interventions in key HoA drought affected countries, as well as in other priority countries such as Burundi, Madagascar and South Sudan.
  • Reinforce regional partnerships with SBC and RCCE networks platforms to further strengthen the coordination and the response to the Horn of Africa drought response, as well as to design evidence-based SBC approaches in collaboration with UN agencies such as WFP and FAO and other stakeholders to address those norms and cultural practices limiting the types of foods that are produced through subsistence agriculture and the animals that are kept at community level, which reduces the availability of nutrient-dense foods that children need.
  • Support ESAR COs to organize and deliver in-country training and mentoring programmes of both UNICEF CO staff and SBC partners on how to collect and use social science data and innovative approaches such as human-centred design and behavioural insights to inform/adjust SBC programming on child health, with a focus on routine immunization and engaging zero-dose communities, and nutrition.
  • Support ESARO in regularly engaging COs to update their funding needs, level of expenditures and spending plans to support demand for vaccines and address the needs of zero-dose communities.

To qualify as an advocate for every child you will have…

  • An advanced university degree (Master’s or higher) in  the social/ behavioural sciences (Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, community-based development) with emphasis on community engagement, participatory communication, social and behaviour change (SBC) planning, participatory research -including human-centred design-, data collection and analysis, training and evaluation of SBC interventions.
  • A minimum of five of relevant professional experience in the planning and management of social and behaviour change programmes, including three years in developing countries is required. Practical experience in humanitarian response and complex crisis is a strong asset.
  • Work experience in applying innovative Social and Behaviour Change approaches (e.g. human-centre design, Behavioural Insights, developing robust M&E systems) applied to SBC or RCCE is required.
  • Developing country work experience and/or familiarity with emergency is considered an asset.
  • Fluency in English is required. Working knowledge of French or Portuguese is an asset.

For every Child, you demonstrate…

UNICEF’s Core Values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust and Accountability and Sustainability (CRITAS) underpin everything we do and how we do it. Get acquainted with Our Values Charter: https://uni.cf/UNICEFValues


UNICEF competencies required for this post are…

(1) Builds and maintains partnerships (2) Demonstrates self-awareness and ethical awareness (3) Drive to achieve results for impact (4) Innovates and embraces change (5) Manages ambiguity and complexity (6) Thinks and acts strategically (7) Works collaboratively with others.

During the recruitment process, we test candidates following the competency framework. Familiarize yourself with our competency framework and its different levels: competency framework here.


UNICEF is here to serve the world’s most disadvantaged children and our global workforce must reflect the diversity of those children. The UNICEF family is committed to include everyone, irrespective of their race/ethnicity, age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, socio-economic background, or any other personal characteristic.
We offer a wide range of benefits to our staff, including paid parental leave, breastfeeding breaks and reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. UNICEF strongly encourages the use of flexible working arrangements.
UNICEF has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNICEF, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination. UNICEF is committed to promote the protection and safeguarding of all children. All selected candidates will, therefore, undergo rigorous reference and background checks, and will be expected to adhere to these standards and principles. Background checks will include the verification of academic credential(s) and employment history. Selected candidates may be required to provide additional information to conduct a background check.


UNICEF’s active commitment towards diversity and inclusion is critical to deliver the best results for children.

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and advance to the next stage of the selection process.

UNICEF appointments are subject to medical clearance.  Issuance of a visa by the host country of the duty station, which will be facilitated by UNICEF, is required for IP positions. Appointments are also subject to inoculation (vaccination) requirements, including against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid). Government employees that are considered for employment with UNICEF are normally required to resign from their government before taking up an assignment with UNICEF. UNICEF reserves the right to withdraw an offer of appointment, without compensation, if a visa or medical clearance is not obtained, or necessary inoculation requirements are not met, within a reasonable period for any reason.

Advertised: E. Africa Standard Time
Deadline: E. Africa Standard Time