Mali: Children extremely vulnerable as conflict continues

World Vision World Vision is preparing to meet the immediate needs of affected families and advising families on how to keep their children safe, in light of reports of child exploitation.

By James Addis and Lauren Fisher, World Vision U.S.
Updated February 6, 2013 at 12:00am PST

As the conflict in Mali continues, World Vision is concerned for children who are vulnerable to exploitation, and families trapped in the violence without access to humanitarian aid.

Families trapped in conflict areas

Fighting between government and international troops and armed groups in the North has flared in the past month.

“We’re worried about the thousands of children and families who remain in the North, right in the crosshairs of conflict, cut off from any hope of assistance,” said Chance Briggs, World Vision county director for Mali.

Reports of rampant child abuse

Also of grave concern are reports of extensive acts of rape, torture, summary executions, and recruitment of child soldiers by rebel groups operating in northern parts of Mali.

According to a United Nations report, girls as young as 12 are forced to “marry” several men in rebel camps. They are then gang-raped through the night and abandoned.

The stories we are hearing from these girls are truly horrifying,” says Chance. “Those who have escaped with their families have suffered severe traumatic experiences. Some of those who did not flee will have even worse stories to tell.”

All rebel groups in Mali have recruited child combatants, according to the report. Children as young as 10 have been seen manning checkpoints and conducting patrols. Boys are reportedly being taught how to use guns and fight. They witnesss rebels cutting off hands and feet. 

These human rights violations have prompted World Vision to call for increased protection of vulnerable populations.

Keeping children safe and providing support

Almost 21,000 World Vision sponsored children live in the central Mopti region, on the frontline of fighting between rebels and French-backed government forces.

World Vision has sent teams to affected areas to distribute information about how to keep children safe as the conflict continues. Through schools, churches, and mosques, children are being advised to not talk to strangers or play with strange objects, which could be landmines or unexploded ordnance.

World Vision is also working in partnership with UNICEF and other child-focused agencies to train United Nation and relief agency staff to provide immediate psycho-social support when they encounter taumatized children.

Our emergency response

World Vision is preparing to meet the immediate needs of affected families by providing food and other basic necessities.

Thousands of families — mostly comprised of women and children — have fled to southern Mali. World Vision is distributing food to communities where displaced people have settled, to lessen the burden on areas already hit hard by last year’s food crisis.

In the coming weeks, World Vision plans to expand its efforts to target a wider number of displaced people, providing food, hygiene kits, and kitchen sets.

Learn more

To learn more about the conflict, read “Nine questions about Mali you were too embarrassed to ask” in the Washington Post.

How you can help

Pray for vulnerable children and families in Mali, especially for their protection from harm and for a means to escape the violence. Pray, too, for a peaceful end to the conflict. Read our prayer points to help guide you.

Make a one-time donation to help children and families affected by conflict in Mali. Your support will help us assist the most vulnerable by providing emergency food in communities where displaced families have settled; advising families about how to keep their children safe during the conflict; and more.