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In the central Sahel, ten million children need urgent humanitarian aid


UNICEF is sounding the alarm. As conflicts escalate in some West African countries, the UN agency estimates that ten million children living in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are in urgent need of humanitarian aid . A figure twice that of 2020.

Burkina Faso, which suffered two military coups in 2022, is the scene of jihadist violence, which appeared a few years earlier in its neighboring countries and which has spread beyond their borders.

According to Unicef, nearly four million children are at risk in Mali and Niger. “Armed conflicts increasingly affect children, who are victims of intensified military clashes or targeted by non-state armed groups”observes the regional director of Unicef ​​for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, in a press release.

8,300 schools closed in the region

“The year 2022 has been particularly violent for children in the central Sahel. All parties to the conflict must urgently stop attacks against them, but also against their schools, health centers and homes.”continues Marie-Pierre Poirier.

According to the UN agency, armed groups opposed to the state-run education system are burning and looting schools, but also threatening, kidnapping or executing teachers. More than 8,300 schools have closed in the three countries (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger), either because they have been targeted or because parents have been displaced or are afraid to send their children there .

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Sharp increase in the number of children killed in 2022

In Burkina Faso, data collected by the United Nations showed that the number of children killed in the first nine months of 2022 tripled compared to the same period in 2021. Most of these children died from injuries by bullet during attacks on their village, or were victims of improvised explosive devices.

This crisis is taking place in one of the regions of the planet most affected by climate change, with rising temperatures and more erratic rainfall causing flooding. At the same time, some armed groups resort to tactics consisting of blockading towns and villages and sabotaging water supply networks.

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20,000 people in “catastrophic” food insecurity

All of which fuel food insecurity. According to Unicef, more than 20,000 people living in the border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger will reach a level of food insecurity qualified as “catastrophic” by June.

Hostilities extend beyond the central Sahel to border regions in northern Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo, where isolated communities lack infrastructure and resources, and where children’s access to essential services and protection is very limited.

Faced with this alarming situation, humanitarian interventions are underfunded. In 2022, Unicef ​​received only a third of the $391 million requested to fund its activities in the region. For 2023, the agency is requesting $473.8 million.

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The World with AFP