World Vision is establishing emergency food distribution sites and providing psychological support for affected children.
As the conflict in Mali escalates, World Vision is concerned that a growing number of families are trapped in the conflict, unable to flee and without access to humanitarian aid.
Families trapped in conflict areas
Fighting between government and international troops and armed groups, which has flared in recent weeks, shows no little sign of slowing.
“In just the past two weeks, we’ve had reports of up to than 30,000 people fleeing to the southern part of Mali to escape the violence in the North,” says Chance Briggs, director of World Vision in Mali.
“Though significant, these numbers are still much lower than we would expect, especially in the past few days since the conflict has intensified,” Chance explains.
Relatively low numbers of people arriving in the South could indicate that many remain trapped in conflict areas. “We’re worried about the thousands of children and families who remain in the North, right in the crosshairs of conflict, cut off from any hope of assistance,” says Chance.
Reports of rampant child abuse
Also of grave concern are reports of extensive acts of rape, torture, summary executions, and recruitment of child soldiers by rebel groups operating in northern parts of Mali.
All rebel groups in Mali have recruited child combatants, according to the report. Children as young as 10 have been seen manning checkpoints and conducting patrols.
The human rights violations have prompted World Vision to call for increased protection of vulnerable populations, especially in the wake of the deployment of Western military forces in support of Malian troops.
World Vision’s response
Almost 21,000 World Vision sponsored children live in the central Mopti region, on the frontline of fighting between Islamic rebels and French-backed government forces.
In response, World Vision is establishing emergency food distribution sites and providing psychological support for affected children.
World Vision has sent teams to affected areas to distribute information about how to keep children safe as the conflict continues. Through schools, churches, and mosques, children are being advised to not talk to strangers or play with strange objects, which could be landmines or unexploded ordnance.
Thousands of families — mostly comprised of women and children — have fled to southern Mali. World Vision is distributing food to communities where displaced people have settled, to lessen the burden on areas already hard-hit by last year’s food crisis.
In the coming weeks, World Vision plans to expand its efforts to target a wider number of displaced people, providing food, hygiene kits, and kitchen sets.
To learn more about the conflict, read “Nine questions about Mali you were too embarrassed to ask” in the Washington Post.
How you can help
Pray for vulnerable children and families in Mali, especially for their protection from harm and for a means to escape the violence. Pray, too, for a peaceful end to the conflict. Read our pray points to help guide your prayers.
Make a one-time donation to help children and families affected by conflict in Mali. World Vision US donors can click here to give.