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Killing and maiming of children in Mali increases since the beginning of this year from ongoing fighting and instability.
Acts of grave violence against children are escalating in Mali where more than 150 children have been killed so far in 2019 and more than 75 injured due to violent attacks and the use of child soldiers, according to a report published Tuesday by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The number of child soldiers in armed groups within the country has increased drastically while more than 900 schools remain closed due to insecurity.
“The recruitment and use of children in armed groups has doubled, with 99 cases in 2019, against 47 over the same period in 2018," said UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado. "These are figures the United Nations has verified, and the true figures are without doubt higher,” she added.
Mercado also said children don' t have access to basic services because of the tense situation in the country. More than 70,000 minors have not received meningitis or pneumonia vaccines, among others.
Many children have been separated from their families from the nation's ongoing conflict and suffer from sexual abuse and psychological trauma, according to Mercado who says that UNICEF tries to help by providing medical and psychosocial care to tens of thousands of affected boys and girls.
“We must not accept the suffering of children as the new normal. All parties must stop attacks on children and take all necessary measures to keep them out of harm’s way, in line with international human rights and humanitarian law,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore.
Fore added that children should be going to school to learn and play with their friends, instead of worrying about how to avoid violence or their forced enrollment as child soldiers used for fighting and other war purposes.
The Malian government has been seeking to rebuild the country and restore stability following a series of political troubles that began in early 2012, including a military coup d'état, renewed fighting between government forces and Tuareg separatists, and the seizure of the northern territory by extremist groups.
While the north has so far been the main region to experiment conflict, concern is rising as the central areas of the country have become increasingly entangled in inter-communal fighting, with children as the main victims of human rights violations.
The crisis in Mali remains one of the least funded humanitarian operations in the world. UNICEF is requesting US$4 million for 2019 to meet child protection needs in the country.