In Mali, political instability, armed conflict, and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increase in child trafficking and youth vulnerability in 2020. A new report released by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) details how bleak economic conditions and school closures across Mali have pushed many Malian youth into the country's gold mines, where children face harsh working conditions and often suffer physical and emotional abuse.
Within the first half of 2020, there are more recorded cases of child labor recruitment (230) than in all of 2019 (215). While boys are often the ones forced into gold mines, there is concern that child marriage among Malian girls will also surge during this uncertain time. Currently, 53% of Malian girls are married before the age of 18 years old.
Many schools in Mali remain closed due to armed conflict, strikes, and/or the COVID-19 pandemic. In Sikoro, the Teen Peer Education program provides stability, education and a safe space for Malian youth. As Malian teens become more vulnerable, being knowledgeable about reproductive health is especially important.
“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...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, ” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.
The Teen Peer Education not only provides essential information on taking care of one’s health, but also provides a nurturing and stable environment during this time of much uncertainty. From January through October 2020, 1,180 teens attended the program. Please consider supporting GAIA Vaccine Foundation’s Teen Peer Education program. A donation of just $10 provides transportation for teens.
Thank you for your support to GAIA Vaccine Foundation and the Teen Peer Education Program!