Child protection crisis erupts in the Central Sahel region

A young girl carrying essential goods at a market in Tougan, Burkina Faso A young girl carrying essential goods at a market in Tougan, Burkina Faso AP Photo/Sam Mednick

09 June 2020

Fueled by the spread of Coronavirus, the crisis continues to worsen and children risk being among its main victims

Lack of health infrastructure, limited resources, poor health outcomes, widespread malnutrition, armed conflicts are problems that already existed in the Sahel region before the outbreak got out of control.

Mali is experiencing a period of political and economic turmoil, with escalating episodes of violence in its north and centre in the form of terrorist attacks and internal conflicts between terrorist groups Jama’a Nusrat ulIslam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State.

Recent months saw an upsurge of non-State armed group attacks in Niger and terrorist violence has displaced more than 839,000 people in Burkina Faso as noted by Security Council Report in its June report –,  61 per cent of whom are children.

Besides, actions taken to contain the spread of coronavirus are hindering the delivery of humanitarian assistance for children’s care and protection.

This deteriorating security situation across the Central Sahel region involves more than two million children in need of protection assistance in 2020, up from almost 1.2 million children in 2019. In addition to this, the disease is furtherly destabilising these countries and, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates, more than 11 million children under 5 years old will be severely malnourished in 2020 in Western and Central African Regions.

Moreover, between 2017 and 2020, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger also witnessed a significant increase in school closures, caused by armed Islamist groups targeting teachers, students, and schools, undoing years of progress in improving children’s access to education.

In the light of this worrying crisis, UNICEF has increased its appeal for children in the Central Sahel region to $268 million to support COVID-19 affected populations while continuing to assist children and their families.

UNICEF also calls on governments to invest in child protection services and social welfare workforce as essential aspects of the COVID-19 response, and to strengthen national protection systems, countering strategies for gender-based violence, and the provision of psychosocial support, especially for children in conflict-affected contexts.


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Author: Nicola Diamanti

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