By Ndey Sowe
According to a press release issued by UNICEF, close to 5 million children in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger will need humanitarian assistance during the course of 2020, up from 4.3 million.
The press release which was issued on Monday, 27th January 2020, indicate that this projection is linked to a surge in violence which includes attacks against children and civilians, abductions and recruitment of children into armed groups; that the number is projected to rise as attacks against children increase in these countries.
Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa indicated that by looking at the situation in the Central Sahel, they cannot help but be struck by the scale of violence children face in these countries; that children are killed, mutilated and sexually abused as hundreds of thousands of others get traumatized.
According to her, attacks against children have spiraled over the years; that Mali alone recorded 571 violations against children during the first three quarters of 2019 compared to 544 in 2018 and 386 in 2017; that since the start of 2019, more than 670,000 children across the region have been forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict and insecurity.
“Children affected by the violence in the Central Sahel urgently need protection and support. I therefore call on Governments, armed forces, non-state armed groups and other parties to the conflict to stop the attacks on children in their homes, Schools or health centers,’’ she said and further demanded for safe access to all affected children in line with humanitarian principles.
“We urge all parties to protect and facilitate access to social services for children during conflicts. This is a cornerstone for social cohesion and contributes in the prevention of conflicts,’’ she said.
According to her, the spate of violence also has devastating implications on children’s learning; that at the end of 2019, more than 3,300 Schools in these three countries were closed or non-operational due to violence; that this has affected 650,000 children and 16,000 teachers.
Marie-Pierre Poirier disclosed that UNICEF estimates that over 709,000 children under 5 years across the central Sahel will suffer from severe acute malnutrition and require lifesaving treatment this year; that access to portable water is dwindling for many families; that in Burkina Faso alone, access to portable water fell by 10 per cent from 2018 to 2019 across areas where internally displaced people represent more than one fifth of the population.
Marie-Pierre Poirier said UNICEF is on the ground in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, working with partners to provide children with urgently needed support and services in protection, education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation. The UN Children’s Organization has appealed for US $ 208 million to support its humanitarian response in the central Sahel for 2020.