Children Under Attack

The current crisis in Mali has profoundly disrupted the lives of millions of children.

A girl who lost members of her familly during attack of their village
UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita

In the first half of 2019, a sharp increase in violations against children was recorded, particularly in the killing and maiming of children. More than 150 children were killed between January and June 2019 - twice as many as in the entire year of 2018 combined. Repeated attacks have led to children losing their lives, being injured by gunshot or burns, being displaced and separated from their families, and being exposed to violence including rape and other forms of sexual violence, arrests and detention, and psychological trauma. Hundreds of children are also estimated to still be in armed groups, and more than 900 schools remain closed due to insecurity. UNICEF is working with other UN agencies, local authorities and NGOs to bring help to the children that need it most.

“The data paints a very disturbing picture of more children being injured in attacks and the consequences are devastating for them and their families.”

Daniela Luciani, Child Protection Manager at UNICEF Mali

The spike in grave violations has led to a dramatic increase in protection needs in the north and the center of Mali. In the region of Mopti, increasing intercommunal violence and the presence of armed groups has resulted in repeated attacks which have led to the killing and maiming of children, their displacement and separation from their families, and their exposure to sexual violence and psychological trauma. Over 377,000 children are estimated to be currently in need of protection assistance in Mali.

"I see bandits in my nightmares. I cannot sleep because I’m worried.”

Ahmed, 15, Timbuktu

UNICEF has been working with local authorities and partners to provide medical and psychosocial care for conflict-affected children, to support the release and reintegration of children from armed groups, to reunite separated children with their families, and to provide care for survivors of violence, including sexual violence. In 2019, UNICEF also aims to provide psychosocial support to over 92,000 conflict-affected girls and boys.

Recent news and features

Link to video on it's hosted site.
UNICEF Mali
Abdoulaye's family was killed in front of him. He was recruited into an armed group and then was arrested by security forces, who interrogated him about the armed group. When he was released, UNICEF and partners supported him to start a new life through a cash grant which helped him opened up his own boutique in the market of Gao. His biggest wish is to protect other children from what he's been through.

Abdoulaye's family was killed in front of him. He was recruited into an armed group and then was arrested by security forces, who interrogated him about the armed group. When he was released, UNICEF and partners supported him to start a new life through a cash grant which helped him opened up his own boutique in the market of Gao. His biggest wish is to protect other children from what he's been through.

Link to video on it's hosted site.
UNICEF Mali
Ahmed’s father was killed in front of his eyes about two months ago in a raid by bandits, who stole everything that his family owns. He now suffers from fear, insomnia and nightmares. UNICEF and child protection partners are helping him process his trauma and supporting his recovery. His one wish is to go back to what it was like before the crisis, when he looked after animals with his father. After his father was killed, he also became the oldest boy in the family and now feels the burden of looking after his mother and his little brothers and sisters.

Ahmed’s father was killed in front of his eyes about two months ago in a raid by bandits, who stole everything that his family owns. He now suffers from fear, insomnia and nightmares. UNICEF and child protection partners are helping him process his trauma and supporting his recovery. His one wish is to go back to what it was like before the crisis, when he looked after animals with his father. After his father was killed, he also became the oldest boy in the family and now feels the burden of looking after his mother and his little brothers and sisters.

Link to video on it's hosted site.
UNICEF Mali
Fatou, 13, an out-of-school girl in the volatile northern region of Gao, has just given birth. She was homeless for part of her pregnancy and survived attempted sexual assaults. UNICEF and partner NGOs helped reconcile her with her family and reintegrate her back into her home. Conflict and school dropout make girls even more vulnerable to rape and sexual exploitation

Fatou, 13, an out-of-school girl in the volatile northern region of Gao, has just given birth. She was homeless for part of her pregnancy and survived attempted sexual assaults. UNICEF and partner NGOs helped reconcile her with her family and reintegrate her back into her home. Conflict and school dropout make girls even more vulnerable to rape and sexual exploitation

Link to video on it's hosted site.
UNICEF Mali
Sala was arrested with grown men and thrown in a truck on to broken glass. After three days of driving in the desert, he was so badly injured that his arm and several fingers had to be amputated. He's now safe in a UNICEF-supported shelter where he gets psycho-social support and help with his recovery process. UNICEF and partners are trying to locate his family so he can be reunited.

Sala was arrested with grown men and thrown in a truck on to broken glass. After three days of driving in the desert, he was so badly injured that his arm and several fingers had to be amputated. He's now safe in a UNICEF-supported shelter where he gets psycho-social support and help with his recovery process. UNICEF and partners are trying to locate his family so he can be reunited.

Wishes of conflict-affected children

“I want to be a teacher,” says Oumou. She's one of thousands of children who've been displaced by the recent violence in central Mali and who live in a camp for displaced people outside of the town of Mopti.
UNICEF Mali/2019/Rose
“I want to be a teacher,” says Oumou. She's one of thousands of children who've been displaced by the recent violence in central Mali and who live in a camp for displaced people outside of the town of Mopti. She’s recovering from the shock of having her village attacked. She wants to get back into school so that she can work towards her dream of being a teacher.
“No more recruiting children,” says Abdoulaye, who experienced recruitment first hand in Mali’s northern region of Gao.
UNICEF Mali/2019/Rose
“No more recruiting children,” says Abdoulaye, who experienced recruitment first hand in Mali’s northern region of Gao. Traumatized and vulnerable after his family was killed in front of him, he got caught up in an armed group and was later detained and questioned. Thanks to UNICEF support, he's opened up his own boutique in the market of Gao, northern Mali. His biggest wish is to protect other children from what he's been through.
“I just want to find my father,” writes Mohammed, a young shepherd from the volatile northern region of Kidal who was tending his animals when he was caught up in a raid and scooped up by mistake.
UNICEF Mali/2019/Rose
“I just want to find my father,” writes Mohammed, a young shepherd from the volatile northern region of Kidal who was tending his animals when he was caught up in a raid and scooped up by mistake. He was interrogated, and put into a prison with adult, he was eventually released and is now at a UNICEF-supported center in Bamako. When asked to write his one wish in chalk, he says all he wants is to do is go back home and work with his father again, tending their animals together.
“All I want is peace,” says Aminata, who lives in settlement for displaced families in the outskirts of Mopti, central Mali.
UNICEF Mali/2019/Rose
“All I want is peace,” says Aminata, who lives in settlement for displaced families in the outskirts of Mopti, central Mali. She walked for days to arrive in the town of Mopti after her village was destroyed in a violent attack. She's now in a temporary learning center that UNICEF set up for displaced children like her, but her whole community remains in shock from the violence and they are struggling to create some stability for their children.

UNICEF’s asks to partners

  • Commit to publicly advocating for the prevention and the end of  grave violations against children
  • Pledge to support UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children call for US$4 million to respond to increasing child protection needs of children and women in Mali
  • Provide direly needed support to the implementation of the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) of the child protection sub cluster in Mali (US$9 million) for:
    • the scale up of age- and gender-sensitive psychosocial support services for conflict-affected children, including through child-friendly spaces
    • long-term socio-economic reintegration for children (girls and boys) formerly associated with armed groups and prevention of further recruitment and use
    • Multisectoral assistance for survivors of conflict-related gender-based violence
  • Support the rapid expansion and availability of safe, temporary learning spaces for displaced and vulnerable children
  • Support medium and long-term solutions for the reopening of schools and for ensuring schools are safe, protective zones for learning, in line with the Safe Schools Declaration

UNICEF would like to thank all partners who work together to provide protection services to the most vulnerable children in Mali, including Belgium, Canada, the Department for International Development of the UK Government (DFID), Denmark, the European Union, Italy, Sweden, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and UNICEF France.