The Sahel has long been one of the most vulnerable regions in Africa. But armed conflict and intensifying military clashes are putting lives and livelihoods at risk, disrupting access to services and leaving the futures of the central Sahel’s children in extreme jeopardy. In brutal new lows, children are being directly targeted by non-state armed groups who operate across vast swathes of Mali and Burkina Faso, and increasingly in Niger. Hundreds of children have been abducted across the three countries, many of them girls.
Since 2021, non-state armed groups have destroyed food reserves in a region that is among the hungriest and most malnourished on the planet. Some armed groups that oppose state-administered education burn and loot schools, and threaten, abduct or kill teachers. National security operations against armed groups, meanwhile, have resulted in multiple instances of children being killed, injured and arrested. Many schools and hospitals are being damaged or destroyed across the three countries.
The insecurity and displacement are spilling over central Sahel borders and unfolding in remote communities with scarce infrastructure and resources, where children already have very limited access to the services they depend on for survival and protection. All this is happening in one of the most climate-affected and water-scarce regions in the world. (...)