THE HUMANITARIAN CRISES IN MALI, BURKINA FASO, AND NIGER ARE COMPLEX PROTECTION CRISES THAT HAVE BEEN FURTHER COMPLICATED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. PARTICULARLY IMPACTED ARE WOMEN AND GIRLS AS REPORTS OF ALREADY HIGH RATES OF ALL FORMS OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE (GBV) HAVE BEEN INCREASING WITH COVID-19 AND THE GROWING GENERALIZED VIOLENCE AND INSECURITY.
Women and girls of the Central Sahel experience some of the highest rates of recorded GBV in the world. 76% of women and girls in Niger are married before the age of 18; Burkina Faso and Mali are also in the top 6 countries in terms of prevalence of child, early and forced marriage. In Burkina Faso, reports from this year indicate that female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage have both increased with rising physical and food insecurity. Trafficking in persons, violence at the hands of armed actors, and traumatization due to witnessing violence are also among concerns named by women, adolescent girls, and organizations. In Mali, 1,443 cases of sexual violence were reported between January and August 2020, of which 13% were committed by armed groups. While evidence is currently limited, surveys have shown that across the Sahel, intimate partner violence (IPV), the most common form of GBV, has increased on average by almost 12% due to COVID-19, with child marriage, FGM, sexual exploitation and abuse, and trafficking also noted by experts as likely rising in the region because of the pandemic. This violence causes immediate harm and has intergenerational impacts; for instance, between January and August 2020, the GBV Sub Cluster in Mali reported nearly 100 children born as a result of rape.
Despite this, the humanitarian response in the Central Sahel continues to under-prioritize GBV prevention, risk mitigation and response. The 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overviews and subsequent Humanitarian Response Plans for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger indicate that 2.3 million women and girls are in need of GBV prevention, risk mitigation and response services. However, just 1.2% of the funding requests across the three country HRPs was for GBV and less than 1% of current funding to Burkina Faso and Niger has been allocated for GBV. The lack of GBV specialists among responders may be one reason for this; in Burkina Faso, only 12% of affected areas are covered by GBV actors and in Mali, fewer than 6 GBV actors are supported to offer GBV service coverage to 64% of the country. For GBV coordination, only one of the three countries has a fully dedicated GBV Coordinator at national level. The real life effects of this are felt by women and girls themselves - in Mali, 68% of GBV survivors who requested access to justice services could not receive it due to lack of funding.