More and more children are falling victim to fatal attacks, violence and forced recruitment by armed groups in Niger, Amnesty International (AI) said on Monday.
The human rights organization says this is especially apparent in conflict-ridden areas on the West African country’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso.
According to the report, more than 60 children have been by killed by armed groups in the north-western region of Tillaberi since January. Another 544 conflict-related deaths occurred in the country between January 1 and July 29, 2021.
The report comes just two days after armed men on motorcycles shot and killed 11 civilians in an attack on the village of Gnarba Kouara, in Tillaberi. Six of the victims were from the same family.
Children have been targeted at school and at home. Whereas girls are particularly vulnerable to being kidnapped and forced into marriage, teenage boys are in danger of being recruited as spies or trained in the use of weapons.
Children’s access to school, food and health care have been severely affected by the conflict, as has their mental well-being, AI says.
A number of militant groups are active in the countries of the Sahel region. Some of them have pledged allegiance to terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda, Islamic State or Boko Haram.
In Niger, with a population of around 23 million, the government has little control in the desert expanses outside the cities, a fact that is exploited not only by jihadist groups but also criminal networks such as people smugglers.