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UNICEF raises the alarm in Mali over recruitment of children

2012-08-17

Calls on all parties to put children out of the way of conflict

BAMAKO/GENEVA/DAKAR, 17 August 2012 - UNICEF 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 called 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.

Community coping mechanisms are being stretched to the extreme and risk failure, with negative consequences for children and women.

Across the northern part of Mali, the global malnutrition rate remain one of 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.

As at mid-August, UNICEF had received just 28 per cent of its USD 58 million emergency appeal for 2012.  Canadians can contribute to emergency efforts by donating at www.unicef.ca/sahelnow.

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For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.