Mali: UN raises alarm over increasing recruitment of children for military purposes

Saturday, August 18, 2012
Bamako/Geneva/Dakar: UNICEF claimed that it has received credible reports that armed groups in the north of Mali are increasingly recruiting and using children for military purposes. While it is difficult to establish the precise figures, reliable sources have stated that numbers involved are in the hundreds and appear to be escalating.

In July, UNICEF reported that at least 175 boys, aged between 12 and 18, were directly associated with armed groups in the north.

UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict, leaders and community members to ensure that children are protected from the harmful impact of armed conflict and do not participate in hostilities.

When a child actively participates in hostilities, whether as a combatant or in a support role, she or he is likely to be exposed to high risk, with a potentially long-term negative impact on her or his health and well-being.   The recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 by armed groups is prohibited by international law, and constitutes a war crime and crime against humanity if children are recruited and used under the age of 15.

Across the northern part of Mali, the global malnutrition rate is among the highest in the country. Schools have been closed for much of the year. Tens of thousands of families have been uprooted from their homes and exposed to violence and distress. Cholera has surfaced along the Niger River. Community coping mechanisms are being stretched to the extreme and risk failure, with negative consequences for children and women.

As at mid-August, UNICEF had received just 28 per cent of its USD 58 million emergency appeal for 2012.
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