By UN News
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) last week voiced “grave concern” over the situation in northern Mali, warning of increasing evidence showing children being killed, injured or recruited into armed groups.
The agency reported that since the end of March at least 175 boys have been recruited into armed groups, at least eight girls have been sexually abused, two boys have been killed by explosive devices in separate incidents and 18 more have been injured.
“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 UNICEF’s Representative in Mali, Theophane Nikyema. “Children in the north are witnessing or becoming victims of violence and they must be protected.”
Fighting resumed in northern Mali between Government forces and Tuareg rebels in January this year. The instability and insecurity resulting from the renewed clashes, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, and a crisis due to a coup d’état in March, have uprooted nearly 320,000 people, with many of them fleeing to neighbouring countries.
On the humanitarian front, the western part of Africa’s Sahel region – which includes Mali – has deteriorated dramatically through 2012 owing to drought and sporadic rains, poor harvest, rising food prices, displacement and insecurity. The United Nations and its partners have appealed for $1.6 billion to provide vital humanitarian aid to people in the crisis-stricken region.