Central Sahel: 10 million children’s lives at risk as conflict escalates
The “brutal” armed conflict has left 10 million children in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in need of humanitarian assistance – more than double the number by 2020, UNICEF warning in a new report.
And hostility spills over into neighboring countries, putting an additional four million children at risk.
“The conflict may not have clear boundaries, there may be no noticeable wars, but gradually and surely things get worse for childrenand millions of them are now caught up in the heart of this crisis,” said John James, a spokesman for UNICEF.
Children living on the front lines of hostilities between armed groups and national security forces are also increasingly in the crossfire.
For example, in Burkina Faso, the number Children killed in the first 9 months of 2022 tripled compared with the same period in 2021. Children are also being recruited by armed groups and forced to fight or support militants in a support role, UNICEF said.
In addition, armed groups in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have targeted schools directly, in a “Accelerate attack on education“. According to a UNICEF report, more than a fifth of schools in Burkina Faso have been closed due to attacks.
“More than 8,300 schools in those three countries – Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – are currently closed due to violence and insecurity” said Mr James. It’s teachers running away from school, children too scared to go to school, families displaced – those are buildings that have been attacked and swept up in violence,” said UNICEF’s James. with journalists in Geneva.
Hostility has spread from the central Sahel to the northern border areas of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, where, UNICEF notes, “children have very limited access to services and essential protection”.
At least 172 incidents of violenceincluding attacks by armed groups, were reported in the northern border areas of the four countries in 2022.
Climate crisis and food insecurity
UNICEF explains that the central Sahel is suffering from severe food and water shortages, and that armed groups make it harder for ordinary people to survive by blockading towns and villages and contaminating water spots.
Fifty-eight water spots were hit in Burkina Faso alone in 2022, a nearly threefold increase from the previous year.
Overall, more than 20,000 people in the border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have to face ‘catastrophic level’ food insecurity to June 2023, according to humanitarian assessment.
Climate change shock
Climate shocks are a major factor affecting crops, with temperature in the Sahel increased “1.5 times faster than the global average””, and “erratic” rainfall leads to flooding, UNICEF said.
The impact of extreme weather events is an important driver of displacement, with more than 2.7 million people displaced across three countries.
The crisis in the Sahel is increasingly reflected globally: by 2022, more than 8,000 children worldwide have been killed and maimed by armed forces and groups, more than 7,000 children recruited and more than 4,000 kidnapped, Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed ConflictVirginia Gamba, told the Human Rights Council on Thursday.
Chronic lack of capital
The UN Children’s Fund emphasizes that the crisis in the heart of the Sahel remains “frequent and severe lack of capital”, with only a third of the needed funding received by UNICEF by 2022.
This year, the UN agency has called for $473.8 million to support its humanitarian response in the central Sahel and neighboring coastal states.
UNICEF also called for “flexible long-term investment” in essential social services, stressing the need to work with communities and youth in the region to secure a better future. for them.