Violence against children in northern Mali
The international children's organization UNICEF has expressed serious concern about the situation in northern Mali, where there are indications that children are being killed or injured by explosive devices, recruited into armed groups and subjected to rape and sexual abuse.
The evidence gathered since the end of March shows that:
- At least 175 boys (ages 12-18) have been recruited into armed groups;
- At least 8 girls were raped or sexually abused; and
- Two boys ages 14 and 15 were killed in separate incidents related to unexploded ordnance, and 18 children were maimed.
The closure of most of the schools in the area is also a concern. That is likely to adversely affect the basic education of an estimated 300,000. Also, children out of school are at a higher risk of recruitment, violence and exploitation.
" These numbers are reason for alarm especially because they represent only a partial picture of the child protection context in the north – an area where access for humanitarian workers is limited," said Theophane Nikyema, UNICEF's Representative in Mali.
" Children in the North are witnessing or becoming victims of violence and they must be protected."
The areas affected include Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu as well as the bordering region of Mopti. Efforts are being made to strengthen the ability of local communities to protect children. These involve work to identify and support separated children and to raise public awareness about risks for children, including recruitment into armed groups.
At the same time as the unrest in northern Mali there is also a severe nutritional crisis developing across much of the Sahel, which is now at the 'lean season' (low food supply) between harvests. Approx. 560,000 young children in Mali are thought to be at risk of acute malnutrition this year, including between 175,000 and 220,000 who require life-saving treatment. Although most of the malnourished children live in the southern parts of Mali, conditions in the north have sharply reduced families' access to food, water and basic health care. It has been estimated that over 330,000 people, 20% of them children, have fled their homes, with 150,000 internally displaced inside Mali, and over 180,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries.
Across Mali, over 70,000 children have been treated for acute malnutrition since the beginning of the year, and in the past week UNICEF and partners supported the national health authorities in reaching almost 6 million children with polio vaccinations, vitamin A supplements and deworming medication.
Funding is desperately needed. As of 6th July 2012 UNICEF has stated that only 21% of UNICEF Mali's US$58 million appeal for 2012 has been raised and only 10% of the child protection target has been reached.