Count Your Blessings: The Life of Young People In War-torn Mali

by E. Johnson Cooper

16-year-old girl in Mali. Credit: Huffpost Impact
16-year-old girl in Mali. Credit: Huffpost Impact

I hate to be a Debbie Downer but sometimes we forget we live in a world, not just the ‘world’ of the United States of America.

I ran across a very sobering article on HuffPost Impact from the diary of a local Mali aid worker. At first, I thought it couldn’t be that bad, it’s 2013 for goodness sake. Oh but it is. While we may not have all that we want, we live in a free country and by God that is enough to be grateful for.

Read the story of young men and women whose lives are governed by a higher power- and I don’t mean Jehovah.

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Originally posted on Huff Post Impact on February 6, 2013. 
by Maria Fruto Frio

Today is unlike any other day. I am in Mali talking to families who fled the violence in the latest armed conflict to rock the West African region. In recent weeks, I have watched Mali grab headlines as government and French troops launch a military campaign against armed opposition groups. Reportedly enforcing a strict interpretation of Sharia law, these groups had been occupying Mali’s northern provinces since last year. As I read the news, I shake my head — not another war. At a certain point, I go numb from reading stories about the military intervention. But I carry on with my day.

Today is different. I am in San province working for the charity organization World Vision which is responding to the needs of displaced people who came in exodus from the north. I am face to face with Malian refugees who shake my hand and look me in the eye as they share their stories. Suddenly the statistics on TV have a human face.

In December, Namina escaped from Timbuktu, the historic homeland of the Tuaoregs and one of the areas which fell under rebel groups’ control and tight grip. Namina left with her three daughters and six other children from her village. Her neighbor and their 16-year old girl Sata were left behind.

“I saw a group of [rebels] came to the house and took Sata by force,” Namina reveals. “They gave her parents CFA 10,000 ($20) to marry Sata. The [rebels] said the parents had no choice and that they were taking Sata to where they lived. The girl was weeping and tried to tear herself away from her captors. Her mother was weeping,” Namina recounts. “But the [rebels], they came with guns.”

Read the rest of this story on Huffpost Impact

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