Due to the ongoing conflict in northern Mali, over 25,000 children are no longer receiving education. Without urgent measures to reintegrate them into the educational system, their schooldays may be definitely over. Despite the efforts of the Burkina Faso government, which has established a plan of action, the majority of these children have already missed the current school year. They risk dropping out for good when the next school year begins unless steps are taken to reintegrate them. With only four months to go before the start of the new school year, the plight of these children appears to be leaving a large number of potential donors indifferent. Terre des hommes is therefore trying to mobilise the international community to prevent even greater levels of educational exclusion among Tuareg children than in recent years.
“It is vital for everyone concerned to prioritise the question of integrating all Malian child refugees into the schools of Burkina Faso, as announced by the Burkina Faso government,” says Thierry Agagliate, the Burkina Faso delegate of the foundation Terre des hommes. According to him: "It will also be necessary to install temporary classrooms in the most isolated refugee camps, employing teachers who are themselves refugees.” Terre des hommes therefore appeals to all players to take action immediately to raise the 1.7 million dollars needed for this project.
The problem of the Malian refugees is not new, but in the past few weeks it has assumed hitherto unknown proportions. Over the past ten years, the ongoing conflict between armed Tuareg militia and the Malian army has caused thousands of Tuareg to flee their country. Hundreds of them are now living in Burkina Faso, camping in the suburbs of large towns, especially the capital Ouagadougou, where – abandoned by the international community – their children can be seen begging at the traffic lights on the main streets. Since 2009, Terre des hommes has been coming to their aid by ensuring that hundreds of children receive education after being persuaded to quit begging in exchange for a few sacks of millet given to their parents to enable the family to survive. However, the events at the beginning of this year have caused an escalation of the situation. Thousands of new arrivals have filled the existing camps in Ouagadougou as well as in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city in the country. Those who were able to save their livestock now live in dozens of camps along the Malian border in a region of the Sahel which already suffers from drought and great uncertainty when it comes to food supplies.
“Emergency measures for the provision of food, shelter, water and healthcare are lagging behind schedule. Nevertheless, it is already high time to take decisions regarding this long-term situation, which will seriously harm these children if nothing is done,” says Thierry Agagliate of Terre des hommes (Tdh).
More than 60,000 Malian refugees living in Burkina Faso urgently await aid from the international community, which is responding only slowly. If the present trend continues, there will be 100,000 refugees by the end of this year, over half of whom are children. Most of these children and their families have received very little aid from the international community since they arrived in Burkina Faso 4 months ago. Faced with the distressing prospect of children being exposed to the ravages of the weather, hunger, drought, and very soon the rainy season with its risk of contagious diseases, the Terre des hommes foundation calls for international mobilisation on this issue, so that everyone assumes their responsibility and acts accordingly.
This week, the Tdh delegation in Burkina Faso is receiving a team of journalists from the BBC, RFI, TV5, AFP and RTB about three different aspects of the situation: the condition and education of Malian child refugees, the condition and protection of young girls in domestic service and the condition and protection of children working at gold-washing sites. The journalists’ reports will be issued as soon as possible.