Dire Humanitarian Needs in Timbuktu: Girl Brides Left as Single Parents by Fleeing Insurgents
Bamako – People in Timbuktu, in the volatile northern region of Mali, need substantial humanitarian assistance according to reports from Plan.
The most pressing needs are education, child protection, food assistance, health care, water, hygiene and sanitation, it says. Infrastructure has been damaged and many people continue to live in fear despite the successes by the military campaign to free the north from the control of armed insurgents.
“Power and water supplies are severely disrupted as most of the infrastructure was destroyed by the conflict. Many here tell stories of girls and women being raped and abused. And despite the news that Timbuktu has been freed, the town is still experiencing sporadic attacks from armed militants,” said Plan’s Emergency Response Manager, Jimmy Tuhaise, who is currently in the region.
Forced child marriage
Tuhaise reported that teenage girls who were forced to marry militants are now left as helpless single mothers after the insurgents fled town.
“I met Aichatou, who was forced to leave school at age 13 and marry. Now 14 with a 3-month-old baby, she is living with her parents after her ‘husband’ was driven out by the incoming military. Her mother told me that she sold charcoal to support her daughter’s education but now she is out of school with no future. Forced marriage is widespread and a source of much anger among the local population,” Tuhaise added.
Following the French-led military action to secure northern Mali, access is slowly improving in central and northern regions. More than half a million people have been displaced since insurgents captured the north. About 60% of them fled to the south while the remainder scattered to neighbouring countries.
With the improved access Plan has re-opened a field office in Mopti Region, which is the fifth largest administrative region and home to 2 million people.
Plan was openly welcomed by residents, displaced people and government officials including the governor and mayor.
“Many north Malians fled to Mopti after their towns were captured by armed insurgents and this is one of the areas where the humanitarian need is greatest,” said Plan Mali Country Director Fadimata Alainchar.
“We are particularly focusing on children and their families whose rights and dignity have been violated and despised,” she added.
Plan is implementing education and child protection programmes. The aid agency is providing school kits, setting up of day care centres to provide early childhood care and development (ECCD) and child-friendly spaces, training of mothers in ECCD management, constructing latrines.
This is the second region in which Plan is running an emergency response operation. The other region is Ségou, south of Mopti. In both regions, Plan is reaching around 5,000 children.
The agency expects to expand its operation to Timbuktu where education has been severely disrupted.
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