The Needs of Children Must Not Be Forgotten in Budgets to Secure Mali
Head of Disaster Response of Plan International, Dr. Unni Krishnan, says that it is imperative that donors rethink their stance on Mali and other countries in the Sahel affected by the humanitarian fallout from the Mali Conflict.
On the day that an international donors' conference opens in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to raise $950 million to fund the military campaign in Mali, he said that the world must not turn a deaf ear to appeals from the humanitarian community.
“We, the global humanitarian community, have been struggling to raise money to help almost 400,000 people displaced by the fighting. We are asking for just one-third of the military budget – $370 million. But as of this morning only 1% has been committed,” added Dr. Krishnan who has just returned from central Mali which is home to tens of thousands of people displaced by the fighting.
The appeal for $370 million was made through the UN’s consolidated appeal.
“This funding gap is extremely worrying and will be a major block in reaching out to vulnerable children and others who have been hit badly by the crisis,” he said.
Aid work which was hampered in the last three weeks by insecurity and restricted movements is set to resume now. Plan International is scaling up its humanitarian operation in seven locations in Ségou Region, including Diabaly. Subject to security clearance Plan will also expand its operation further north. Assistance is already being provided in neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso where there are almost 100,000 refugees in camps along the borders. The focus is on education, child protection, water, sanitation, hygiene, and other life saving needs.
“There is an urgent need to scale up humanitarian assistance. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure recovery and rebuilding that strikes at the roots of poverty. It is important to place children and their needs in all relief and recovery efforts,” he added.
Dr. Krishnan has also said that there needs to be a change in thinking among donors on education.
“Education in emergency situations is a low priority for donors,” he said. ”We know well from experience that investment in children bodes well for social development and improvement of the economy.”
In 2012, the UN revealed that 80% of those who remained in the north had no access to education - leaving children at risk of recruitment into armed groups. In the current context of conflict and displacement, gaps in education are expected to widen.
In 2012, Mali also suffered a serious food crisis and the current conflict is expected to amplify this. It is estimated that 585,000 people in the north are food insecure, and more than 1.2 million across the country are at risk of food insecurity.