UNHCR says child trafficking increased in Mali during COVID-19 crisis

Conflict, insecurity, COVID-19 and deteriorating economic conditions are leading to a rise in trafficking of children, forced labour and forced recruitment by armed groups in Mali, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency said. 

More cases of child recruitment were documented in the first half of this year (230 cases) compared to the whole of 2019 (215 cases), according to a report released by the UNHCR-led Global Protection Cluster, a network of UN agencies and NGOs providing protection to people affected by humanitarian crises. 

Armed groups are also trafficking children for labour in gold mines, using profits to enrich combatants, fuel the arms trade and finance the violence. Extortionate “taxes” are also imposed on adults operating in those gold mines.As schools remain closed due to conflict, insecurity, COVID-19 or teachers’ strikes –children are also pushed towards informal gold mines, particularly in Gao and Kidal where many areas are controlled by armed groups. 

“As a result of conflict and socio-economic deterioration worsened by the pandemic, we are seeing some of the most egregious human rights violations in the Sahel,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs. 

“Children are being forced to fight by armed groups, trafficked, raped, sold, forced into sexual or domestic servitude, or married off. Many more children are at risk in the Sahel, a region which is becoming the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis in the world.” 

Photo Credit : New Delhi Times