By Agence France-Presse
UN child protection body UNICEF warned on Tuesday children in Mali faced rising violence with more than 150 killed in the first half of the year in jihadist and ethnic attacks.
“More than 150 children were killed in the first half of 2019 and 75 were injured in violent attacks,” a UNICEF statement said.
“Recruitment and use of children in armed groups doubled in comparison to the same period in 2018, and more than 900 schools remain closed due to insecurity,” it added.
French forces intervened in Mali six years ago to chase out jihadist groups that had taken over much of the country’s north, but organisations linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group are still active there.
Meanwhile, ethnic conflicts have added to the volatile mix, especially in central Mali.
“We must not accept the suffering of children as the new normal,” the UNICEF statement quoted executive director Henrietta Fore as saying.
The UN stabilization force in Mali, MINUSMA, published last week the results of an investigation that said 22 children aged between one and 12 years old (11 girls and 11 boys) were among the 35 people killed during an attack on June 9 against the village of Sobane Da, in an ethnic Dogon enclave.
Most had been burned to death or suffocated inside homes that had been set ablaze, the report said.
“Increasing inter-communal violence and the presence of armed groups has resulted in repeated attacks which have led to the killing and maiming of children, their displacement and separation from their families, and their exposure to sexual violence and psychological trauma,” UNICEF said.
It added that more than 377,000 children now needed assistance in Mali, and that UNICEF would need an additional $4 million (3.58 million euros) to help woman and children in the country.