Children needing aid in central Sahel double to 10 million: UN

Ten million children in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are in “extreme jeopardy” and desperately need humanitarian assistance due to worsening violence, the United Nations said Friday.

The figure is twice as many as in 2020, while a further four million children are at risk in neighbouring west African countries as battles between armed groups and security forces spill across borders, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said.

“Children are increasingly caught up in the armed conflict, as victims of intensifying military clashes, or targeted by non-state armed groups,” Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s regional director for west and central Africa, said in a statement.

“The year 2022 was particularly violent for children in the central Sahel. All parties to the conflict need to urgently stop attacks both on children, and their schools, health centres, and homes.”

UNICEF said the violence was spreading from the central Sahel into the northern regions of Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo, which are remote communities where children have very limited access to protection and services.

In 2022, UNICEF received only a third of the $391 million it was seeking in its central Sahel appeal.

In 2023, it has appealed for $473.8 million for its humanitarian response plan in the central Sahel and neighbouring coastal countries.

The crisis needs long-term investment to foster “social cohesion, sustainable development, and a better future for children,” Poirier said.