In Dakar, urban commuters are familiar with kids as young as five years old begging on street corners at all hours of the day or the night, with torn, dirty clothes, collecting donations in an empty tin can.
As the Malian army and its foreign partners are slowly securing northern cities in the West African nation, it is still unclear how the country will turn its back on the political crisis that led to the March 2012 military coup.
Fatimata Wallet Haibala sits among a group of women and teenage girls under a tent, her handicapped boy on her lap. The scene could be a rural picture of a Tuareg gathering in the desert. But the mother mother of five resides in a refugee camp in Goudebo, Burkina Faso, almost 100 kilometres from their home in Mali.
At the entrance to the Evangelical church in Mopti, central Mali, military soldiers stood on either side of the door as Pastor Luc Sagara greeted his parishioners for Sunday mass.
“We know they are close. We do not feel safe,” mutters Allassane Traoré, as he stares down the road on which the Islamists entered the town of Diabaly in central Mali, almost two weeks ago.