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Investigation reveals that Mali children are facing a triple crisis

27 June 2012: The worsening hunger season in Mali has not only force children into a food crisis but also into the threat of sexual violence and world of work for survival.

In the south of the country girls aged 13-18 have reported being attacked and sexually abused on their longer treks from home to find water. In addition, children have been forced to abandon school to find work to help support their families whose incomes have declined due to poor harvests throwing Mali and other countries of the Sahel into a food crisis.

The global child rights organisation, Plan International, has voiced concern for the fate of children in Mali and the Sahel.

Vulnerable to violence

Plan’s Child Protection Specialist, Janis Ridsdel, says that as Plan and their partners investigate further she fears that incidents of “survival sex” by teenagers and younger children are likely to be found.

“The combined refugee and food crisis could lead to an increase in children being driven into the worst forms of child labour- including children being forced into commercial sex work and begging.  Child trafficking, which has long been a problem in the region, could also increase,” she said. “Children are becoming more vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation – including trafficking - due to family separation, as children and families migrate in search of food and income.”

In the north of the country, currently engaged in conflict, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. A total of 167,257 IDPs have been registered in Mali and another 172,647 have fled across the borders into Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger. Plan International is providing support to refugees in camps in Niger and Burkina Faso.

Neglected

There are also reports from the north of children being recruited by rebel groups and this has forced parents to keep their children away from school and playgrounds, especially in Timbuktu.

Ridsdel says that equally as important as food, water, and shelter in an emergency, child protection must also be a priority but it was being “neglected”.

“We need specific programmes to identify, protect and reunify separated and unaccompanied children, and only a few agencies are undertaking projects to provide psychosocial and protection supports for girls and boys. They are facing huge logistical challenges as affected children are dispersed over massive geographical areas.

The Protection and Human Rights UN funding appeals, of which child protection is a part, is only 5% funded, and education is only 7% funded. While the Sahel crisis is poorly funded over all, these are the two worst-funded sectors .


Notes to Editors:

  • Plan International’s emergencies response teams are implementing WASH, education and psycho-social projects in villages and refugee camps in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger;
    The assessment done by the Child Protection sub-cluster was conducted in the South of Mali in the regions of Kayes, Ségou, Koulikoro and Sikasso;
  • Sexual violence, according to the interviewees, has increased on women and 13-18 years old girls that are the most affected. The reasons are linked to the lack of access of water as girls have to walk longer distance to find water;
  • Half of those interviewed reported that children have abandoned schools for the following reasons listed in decreasing order: Because children need to work, the cost of education, because they are hungry and because the family have left the village.

Media contacts:
Jane Labous
Press Officer, East and West Africa,
Plan International Headquarters (UK)

Tel: +44 (0)1483 733330
Mobile: +44 (0)7540 048494
Email: jane.labous@plan-international.org