The situation has been worsened by conflict, the current global pandemic and deteriorating economic conditions, the agency says:
“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.”
The UNHCR says a network of humanitarian agencies that it leads documented 230 cases of child recruitment for the first half of the year, compared with 215 cases for the whole of 2019.
It also found an estimated 6,000 children, disproportionately boys, working across eight mine sites in the West African country.
It noted that the children were exposed to “the worst forms of child labour, economic exploitation, and physical, sexual and psychological abuse”.
“Many more children are at risk in the Sahel, a region which is becoming the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis in the world,” said Gillian Trigg, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.
Mali is a source, transit, and destination country for transnational trafficking, though internal trafficking is more prevalent, according to the US state department.