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UNICEF Report: Central Sahel's Children in Extreme Jeopardy

Caught in the crossfire of intensifying violence, children in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are increasingly under threat against a backdrop of climate change-induced extreme weather, drought and food insecurity.

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Children in the central Sahel are increasingly caught up in armed conflict, and the intensification of violence puts their lives and futures in extreme jeopardy. As tactics sink to brutal new lows, children are being directly targeted by non-state armed groups operating across vast Mali and Burkina Faso swathes and increasingly in Niger.

In Burkina Faso, three times more children were killed during the first nine months of 2022 than in the same period in 2021. In Mali, there were over 480 verified cases of recruitment and exploitation of children by armed forces during the first six months of 2022, three times more than in the same period in 2021. In Niger, there were over 200 verified grave violations against children between July and September 2022.

Long before this brutal new chapter in the crisis began, the children of central Sahel were already dying — of hunger and disease.

The central Sahel is one of the planet's most climate-affected and water-scarce regions. Temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average. Rainfall has become more erratic and intense, causing floods that reduce crop yields and contaminate already scarce water supplies.

These conditions are aggravating diseases such as pneumonia, which can be over 10 times more lethal among severely malnourished children. In Burkina Faso’s Center Region, home to many families and children displaced by violence, the number of children treated for severe acute malnutrition in 2022 was up 50 percent from the previous year.

UNICEF urges governments across the central Sahel, affected coastal countries, and technical and financial partners to prioritize expanding access to services and protection as pathways to peace and security​​​​​​.

Sisal, a 6-month-old boy, was screened for malnutrition in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, during a UNICEF-supported national campaign to provide the children children with vitamin A supplements. © UNICEF/UN0753057/Dejongh