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The lives of children at grave risk in West Africa

Sisters seek refuge in Burkina Faso after the coup in Mali
Sisters seek refuge in Burkina Faso after the coup in Mali
July 16, 2012

Reports have begun to surface in the media and elsewhere that children fleeing the conflict in Mali have been raped, abused or forced to become child soldiers.

The news, sadly, is not a surprise. Children are easy prey during war and conflict. These will only be the first stories about such crimes, not the last from this crisis across the Sahel. Other stories to surface will include children being exploited in the sex trade, children being abused, children no longer going to school because they must work, children becoming orphans, children being forced to marry. . . the list goes on.

Despite a universal revulsion to stories like these, child protection activities during humanitarian crises usually receive very minimal support.

In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger there are multiple crises underway, and children are always the most vulnerable. Regional drought has caused regional hunger and malnutrition. Political instability and violence has caused massive population movement. Now, seasonal rains have helped to spark outbreaks of cholera and other diseases. Plan has focused our response activities on children, their protection, education and health.

From these combined issues – all grave emergencies in their own right – more than 2.5 million children, 0-17 years old, are struggling simply to survive. Be safe. Stay healthy. Eat. Go to school. Have a future.

Plan faces difficult decisions in these three countries. How do we use the meager funds at our disposal to have the greatest impact for the most children and families?

The Sahel in West Africa is slightly larger than the combined area of Texas and Alaska. The total number of people affected 18 million, is slightly less than the population of Florida. Despite the vast size and scope, we sit powerless to assist because there is a lack of funding support. The combined funding appeal for all operational agencies is nearly $1.7 billion to see the affected families through the year.

To date, in the 16 weeks since the coup in Mali on March 22 that started this relief operation in earnest, Plan has budgeted around $25 million, and thus far, raised just over $7 million. Like our partner humanitarian agencies, we are simply running out of money. Without your support, we will soon be facing the decision of which program to shutter for lack of funds.

Support children affected by this crisis in West Africa

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