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Mali Conflict: Children in the crossfire

15/01/2013

Nine-year-old Ahmed In the middle of an overcrowded compound, nine year old Ahmed, is adjusting to yet another new life. In less than a year, he has had to move twice from his home in Timbuktu, in northern Mali, first to Mopti further South and now to Ségou in central Mali.

As the news of an immediate attack against Mopti spread across Mali, Ahmed and his father knew they had to run for their lives yet again. They boarded the first bus from Mopti and made the six hour journey to Ségou.

“On the way I could hear gunshots. I didn’t see the troops or what was happening but I was so scared. I am glad we made it to a safer place,” says Ahmed.

Emergency support

In the last couple of weeks, clashes between armed insurgents, the national army and international forces around the Mopti region have forced thousands to flee. Many have come to Ségou, where there are now more than 30,000 displaced people – mostly women and children.

Ahmed’s mother is still in Timbuktu – about 1,000km away. The city has been under the control of armed insurgents since April 2012. He misses her and his siblings who are still with her. “When I was still in Timbuktu, I used to play a lot with my brothers, my cousins and my friends. We played football all the time. That was really fun. I miss them all now”.

Ahmed was parted from the rest of his family in October 2012, when his father took him to Mopti so that he could continue school. His parents felt they had no choice because the armed insurgents in Timbuktu closed all schools.

Girls attending catch-up classesAs part of our education in emergencies work, Plan has been distributing school kits to children in Ségou and running weekly catch-up classes to help displaced girls and boys keep up with their school work.

The emotional welfare of displaced children like Ahmed is a major concern. Aid work which has been hampered by insecurity and restricted movements is set to resume.  Plan is scaling up its humanitarian operation in seven locations in the Ségou Region, including Diabaly. Subject to security clearance Plan will also expand its operation further north. Assistance is already being provided in neighbouring 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.

Find out more about our work in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

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