NEW YORK (July 6, 2012) — UNICEF today expressed grave concern over the situation in northern Mali, where evidence shows children are being killed or injured by explosive devices and recruited into armed groups. There are also reports indicating 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 eight girls were raped or sexually abused; and in separate incidences related to unexploded ordnance, two boys ages 14 and 15 were killed, and 18 children were maimed.
Further cause for concern is the closure of the vast majority of schools across the region, affecting up to 300,000 children in basic education alone. 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.”
UNICEF is working with local partners in the conflict-affected regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu as well as the bordering region of Mopti to strengthen communities’ ability to protect children. This work includes providing information on how to identify and support separated children, raising public awareness about risks for children, including recruitment into armed groups, and promoting education.
The unrest in northern Mali comes at the same time as a severe nutritional crisis unfolds across much of the Sahel region of western and central Africa, which is now experiencing the peak of the precarious “lean season” between harvests. Some 560,000 young children in Mali are at risk of acute malnutrition this year, including between 175,000 and 220,000 who require life-saving treatment.The vast majority of malnourished children live in the southern parts of the country, but conditions in the north have sharply reduced access for families to food, water and basic health services. More than 330,000 people, a fifth of them children, have fled their homes, with 150,000 internally displaced inside Mali, and more than 180,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries.
UNICEF has provided emergency health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene and household supplies to partners working in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, and is reaching children with vaccinations, nutritional supplements and deworming medication wherever possible.
Across the country, more than 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 nearly six million children with polio vaccinations, vitamin A supplements and deworming medication. Additional funding is critical—just 21% of UNICEF Mali’s $58 million appeal for 2012 has been met, and just 10% of the child protection target has been reached.
How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF’s relief efforts in the Sahel, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038
As with any emergency, in the event that donations exceed anticipated needs, USF will redirect any excess funds to children in greatest need.
UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.
UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress: the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. But still, 21,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.