Ten million children living in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger urgently need humanitarian aid, twice as many as in 2020, in the face of intensifying conflicts, Unicef said on Friday. Burkina Faso, the scene of two military coups in 2022, has been caught since 2015 in a spiral of jihadist violence that appeared in Mali and Niger a few years earlier and which has spread beyond their borders. Nearly four million children are at risk in the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, estimates UNICEF in a report.
“Armed conflicts affect more and more children, who are victims of the intensification of military confrontations or targeted by non-state armed groups”, observes the regional director of UNICEF for East Africa. West and Central, Marie-Pierre Poirier, in a press release. “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,” she continues.
The number of children killed multiplied by three in Burkina
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.
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 bullets during attacks on their village, or were victims of improvised explosive devices or munitions.
Rise in food insecurity
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.
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 described as “catastrophic” by June.
But 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, it is asking for $473.8 million.