A U.N. refugee agency report issued earlier this month finds thousands of children in Mali are being exploited and abused by criminal or armed groups, tribal chiefs and state authorities for profit and personal gain. The report presents a horrific picture of unscrupulous people feeding off the misery of the most vulnerable members of society to enrich themselves. The U.N. refugee agency reports conflict, COVID-19 and worsening socio-economic conditions have led to an upsurge in child-trafficking in Mali. It says armed groups are forcibly recruiting children to fight their wars. UNHCR spokeswoman, Shabia Mantoo, tells VOA that armed groups are trafficking children to work in gold mines and using the profits from their labor to fuel the arms trade and perpetuate their violent exploits. The report says many children are unable to go to school because of conflict and the coronavirus pandemic. This makes them particularly vulnerable and pushes many to work in informal gold mines. It says an estimated 6,000 children, mostly boys, are working in eight mine sites in the country.