Ten million children in Sahel face ‘extreme jeopardy’: UN

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The United Nations has issued a warning that as a result of the escalating violence, ten million children in the central Sahel region of West Africa are now in a state of “extreme jeopardy” and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

The number of children in dire need of aid in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is twice as many as in 2020, the children’s agency UNICEF said.

Meanwhile a further four million children are at risk in neighbouring countries as battles between armed groups and security forces spill across the borders.

“Children are increasingly caught up in the armed conflict, as victims of intensifying military clashes, or targeted by non-state armed groups,” Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s regional director for west and central Africa, said. “The year 2022 was particularly violent for children in the central Sahel. All parties to the conflict need to urgently stop attacks both on children, and their schools, health centres, and homes.”

The region has been caught in a spiral of jihadist violence for years, with Mali struggling with an 11-year-old insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Meanwhile Burkina Faso, one of the world’s most volatile and impoverished countries, witnessed two military coups in 2022. UNICEF said the armed conflict engulfing the region had become increasingly brutal, with some groups that operate across vast swathes of territory blockading towns and sabotaging water networks.

In Burkina Faso, three times as many children were verified as killed during the first nine months of 2022 as in the same period in 2021, according to UN data. —AFP