UNICEF says that children in the northern Mali are among the most vulnerable in the Sahel region, confronted not just by the food and nutrition crisis from the prolonged drought, but also by displacement and the effects of armed conflict in that part of the country.
“Children in Northern Mali are no longer on the brink of disaster,” says UNICEF Mali Deputy Representative Frederic Sizaret, “now it is here.” Citing recent reports, Sizaret adds: “Far too many are suffering from under nutrition, displacement, many are out of school, and now there are credible reports of grave violations of child rights.”
According to UNICEF, more than 300,000 people from the north, half of them children, are now displaced elsewhere in Mali or in neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, the insecurity is hampering the delivery of aid to those who remain. Recent reports say women and girls are being kidnapped by Arab militias and children are being recruited into Islamic armed groups. Landmines on the ground have already killed several children.
UNICEF warns that without better humanitarian access, the situation could rapidly worsen. Disease outbreaks are very possible, as approximately fifty per cent of health facilities in the north have been vandalized and looted, destroying equipment and stocks of vaccines. Of approximately 1,300 cases of cholera in the country in the past year, almost 1,000 were in the north, and cases of measles have been reported.
Through partners UNICEF has delivered enough ready-to-use therapeutic food in the north to provide treatment for approximately 3,000 severely malnourished children, and health kits for 60,000 people for one month. In addition, UNICEF has supplied non-food items such as plastic sheeting, cooking equipment, soap, and household water treatment tablets for more than 12,000 internally displaced people and host families in the regions of Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao and Mopti.
UNICEF says the situation for Malian children as a whole remains troubling. An estimated 175,000 – 220,000 children are at risk of Severe Acute Malnutrition in 2012. In the south of the country, where the Global Acute Malnutrition rate is at 10.4 per cent among children under five, UNICEF has already delivered 26,000 boxes of therapeutic food to treat as many children for one month.
UNICEF is appealing for US$26 million for emergency response to children and women affected by the food and nutrition crisis and US$7.6 million to respond to the displacement. The organization says without increased aid, children in Mali will continue to suffer.