As rebels continue to expand their control over the country, SOS Children made the decision in early April to evacuate the children living at SOS Children’s Village Socoura Mopti, in central Mali, to safety. All 140 children and their SOS mothers living there were transported to the two other SOS Children’s Villages in Mali, in Sanankoraba and Kita, both located further south.
Last week, Ibrahima Bane, director of SOS Children’s projects in Mali, visited the families in their temporary homes. He says: “Their morale is good in spite of the situation. Fear is, however, perceptive because the Sevaré military located in the area around Mopti is getting reinforcements in view of a possible riposte from the Malian army against the rebels.”
Ibrahima also visited SOS Children’s other projects in Mopti. He saw the empty Children’s Village and says: “It is a strange feeling to see the village, usually springing with life and children, now with closed doors and windows.”
In addition to the Children's Village, SOS Children have an SOS School and Nursery in the Mopti area, which are being run as normal for now, although attendance has declined amid fears of attack. Ibrahima says: “All our projects are open: however the nursery is empty, as parents are scared to bring their children with the current security conditions. At the SOS School, out of the 714 children, only 214 children actually take the route to school every day.”
Concern for child protection
There are now an approximately 107,000 internally displaced people in Mali, including thousands of children. Many children have been sent away from their homes to live with relatives in other parts of the country, who have been placed under increasing pressure to provide for them. School attendance has decreased both because of the conflict and the levels of anxiety amongst the population. Children with no parental support are especially vulnerable, and there is evidence that some children have been taken to serve with rebel groups.
SOS Children are part of a UNICEF-led cluster of NGOs in Mali providing child protection in the country. The group are preparing a response plan for displaced people, and discussing an emergency package with food aid which could be offered to families.
Ibrahima says that whilst he is pleased to see that evacuated SOS families have settled into their new temporary Children's Village, he remains concerned about what the future may bring: “I came back comforted with the situation for now but worried for the future.”