UNICEF warns of deteriorating situation of children in the Sahel
8300 schools have closed in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger because they have been targeted, parents have been displaced, or families are afraid to send their young there. (Illustrative image) Getty Images/BSIP
Text by: RFI Follow
UNICEF is producing alarming new figures on the plight of children in the central Sahel. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, 10 million children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. That is twice as much as in 2020, says the UN agency. The organization's survey, which covers 2022, shows a significant deterioration in the situation of the youngest, in the face of the spiral of conflicts between jihadist groups and national armies.
In Burkina Faso, the number of children killed in 2022 tripled compared to the previous year. In Mali, UNICEF recorded three times as many recruitment and use of children by armed groups. Same upward trend in Niger. A bleak picture due to the violence that is only intensifying.
According to the survey, some children have to join armed groups because they no longer have families or are destitute. The movements employ them as cooks, guards, porters, or to gather information. Young people are also victims of the military. Numerous operations by the armed forces resulted in their deaths. Dozens were also arrested by soldiers on suspicion of complicity.
Schools are particularly affected. In all 3 countries, movements opposed to the state-run education system burn and loot schools, threaten, kidnap and execute teachers. For example, 8,300 schools have closed in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger because they have been targeted, parents have been displaced, or families are afraid to send their young to them.
Groups also block towns and villages, sabotaging water supply networks. All this increases food insecurity, affecting the most vulnerable. By June, more than 20,000 people living in the Burkina-Mali-Niger border area will be "catastrophic" food insecure. The organization is therefore asking donors for more than $470 million in aid this year.
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