from RUDD KONTE in Bamako, Mali
BAMAKO, (CAJ News) – SOME 5 million children in the Sahel region will need humanitarian assistance this year after a surge in violence that has included attacks against civilians, abductions and recruitment of children into armed groups.
The children are in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The countries are affected by banditry from Islamist sects.
The figure of minors in need of assistance has increased from 4,3 million.
Marie-Pierre Poirier, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) regional director for West and Central Africa, said the scale of violence children were facing was worrying.
“Children are being killed, mutilated and sexually abused, and hundreds of thousands of them have had traumatic experiences,” she said.
Attacks against children have spiked over the past year.
As an example, Mali which recorded 571 grave violations against children during the first three quarters of 2019, compared to 544 in 2018 and 386 in 2017.
Since the start of 2019, more than 670 000 children across the region have been forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict and insecurity.
The spike in violence also has devastating implications on children’s learning.
At the end of 2019, more than 3 300 schools in the three countries were closed or non-operational due to violence – a six-fold increase since April 2017 – affecting 650 000 children and 16 000 teachers.
UNICEF estimates that across the central Sahel, over 709,000 children under five years will suffer from severe acute malnutrition and require lifesaving treatment this year.
The UN children’s organisation has appealed for US$208 million (R3 billion) to support its humanitarian response in the central Sahel for 2020.
– CAJ News