This is a summary of what was said by Christophe Boulierac, UNICEF spokesperson in Geneva – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
GENEVA, 26 March 2019- Early on the morning of Saturday, 23 March, an attack on a village in Bankass in Mopti, central Mali killed more than 150 people and injured over 70. The attack also caused significant material damage.
UNICEF is deeply saddened and outraged that children are among the victims. According to first reports from local medical services, one-third of the casualties are children, with further verifications still ongoing. 31 children are also injured. The injuries sustained by children are mostly gunshot injuries, burns and fractures.
Many of the injured children have now been evacuated to health facilities for treatment. UNICEF is on the ground in Mopti with the Ministry of Health and other humanitarian partners helping to provide first aid, medicines and other critical emergency supplies.
UNICEF has already flown in emergency medical kits with medicines and equipment, including first aid supplies, to cover the needs of 10,000 people for 3 months. Two additional trucks with supplies including tents and water supply systems are currently on their way to the affected region. UNICEF is also providing psychosocial support for unaccompanied children.
This tragic killing and maiming of defenseless children is on an unprecedented scale. UNICEF urges all parties to put an immediate end to the violence and to keep children out of harm’s way. Children’s right to protection from all forms of violence is a moral and legal obligation and should be upheld in all circumstances.
DETERIORATING HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
The attack on Saturday is part of a dramatic, wider trend. Since the last half of 2018, an unprecedented deterioration of the humanitarian situation has been observed in central Mali.
In the volatile region of Mopti, increasing intercommunal violence and the presence of armed groups has led to a protection crisis. Grave violations against children include killing and maiming, abduction, detention of children for security related charges, and attacks and threats on schools and teachers, as well as sexual and gender-based violence, are all a growing concern in Mopti.
The insecurity has also fuelled significant population displacement. According to OCHA, at the end of 2018 there were 56,400 internally displaced persons in Mopti region (compared to only 2,000 people the year before). Since Saturday, more than 2,000 people have been displaced due to the violence – a large proportion of which are children.
Beyond grave violations, displacement and risk of family separation, children are also increasingly deprived of education and essential health care as insecurity and violence are causing schools to close and compromising access to health centers:
- Mopti is the region in Mali that is the most affected by school closures (accounting for 523 out of 857 schools closed in the country). The number of schools closed in Mopti has more than doubled in the past two years, affecting over 150,000 children.
- A sharp increase in the number of unvaccinated children in Mopti has been recorded in Mopti: from 2017 to 2018, the number of children in Mopti who were not vaccinated with the Penta3 vaccines more than quadrupled.
In short, the crisis in central Mali is impacting all aspects of children’s lives – comprising their right to safety, protection, to health and to education.
Despite the increasing needs and protection concerns, the crisis in Mali remains one of the least funded in the world. Over the past three years, UNICEF has on average only mobilized 40% of its emergency funding requirements. Funding is even more constrained for child protection, with only about a quarter of the funds needed received between 2016 and 2018. In 2019, UNICEF is requesting US$42 million to meet the emergency needs of children in Mali.
Across Mali, more than 1.6 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance. Without more support and funding, UNICEF and other UN agencies and NGOs will not be able to bring direly needed assistance.