NEW YORK (August 17, 2012) — UNICEF has received credible reports that armed groups in the north of Mali are increasingly recruiting and using children for military purposes. While it is difficult to establish the precise figures, reliable sources have stated that numbers involved are in the hundreds and appear to be rising.
In July, UNICEF reported that at least 175 boys, ages 12 to 18, were directly associated with armed groups in the north.
UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict, leaders, and community members to ensure that children are protected from the harmful impact of armed conflict and do not participate in hostilities.
When a child actively participates in hostilities, whether as a combatant or in a support role, he or she is likely to be exposed to high risks, with a potentially long-term negative impact on his or her health and well-being. The recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 by armed groups is prohibited by international law; it constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity if children are recruited and used under the age of 15.
Across the northern part of Mali, the global malnutrition rate is among the highest in the country. Schools have been closed for much of the year. Tens of thousands of families have been uprooted from their homes and exposed to violence. Cholera has surfaced along the Niger River. Community coping mechanisms are being stretched to the extreme and risk failure, with negative consequences for children and women.
As of mid-August, UNICEF has received only 28% of its $58 million emergency appeal for 2012.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency reliefand more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.