As the war in Mali rages, children are becoming its latest victims.
UNICEF in Mali last week issued a warning stating that there has been a rise in the number of children who have been killed or maimed this year as a result of the conflict that’s been raging in the West African nation since 2012.
“As violence continues to spread in Mali, children are more and more at risk of death, maiming, and recruitment into armed groups,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
An investigation by the United Nations found that more than 150 children were killed in the first half of 2019. The report also found that 75 children were injured in violent attacks, while the number of children being used in combat doubled compared to 2018.
Fore added: “We must not accept the suffering of children as the new normal. All parties must stop attacks on children and take all necessary measures to keep them out of harm’s way, in line with international human rights and humanitarian law.”
Northern Mali has been in conflict since 2012, when insurgents attacked the historic town of Timbuktu before the war spilled over to other areas in the region. In the town of Mopti, the main city in the north, insurgents used motorcycles to travel around the area, leading to a ban on mopeds in 2017.
While the ban was lifted in the beginning of August of this year, health care workers had to stop using mopeds to deliver medication as a result of the ban.
But as UNICEF says, the war is far from being over, and it’s latest victims are the country’s most vulnerable population group. So far, 900 schools remain closed.
“The spike in grave violations has led to a dramatic increase in protection needs in the north and the center of Mali,” UNICEF explains on its website.
“In the region of Mopti, increasing intercommunal violence and the presence of armed groups has resulted in repeated attacks which have led to the killing and maiming of children, their displacement and separation from their families, and their exposure to sexual violence and psychological trauma.”
It’s estimated that more than 377,000 children need protection from the war and insecurity. UNICEF works with local partners and authorities, aiming to provide psychological and social care to more than 92,000 children who have been affected by the conflict.
This includes rescuing children who have been forced to fight for armed groups and reintegrating them back into their communities, reuniting children and families that have been separated by the war, and providing care and support for those who have survived sexual and other types of violence.
“The needs of Mali’s most vulnerable children are tremendous,” Lucia Elmi, UNICEF representative in Mali, said. “UNICEF and child protection partners need more support to provide critical protection services to the children who need it most.”