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Mali: ICRC intensifies aid effort in the north

12-09-2012 News Release 12/180

Geneva/Niamey (ICRC) – The humanitarian situation in the north of Mali remains a matter of very serious concern, as people continue to be hit hard by the effects of the armed conflict and the ongoing food crisis.

To cope with the most urgent needs, especially in terms of food and medicine, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is asking donors for 25 million Swiss francs (over 20 million euros).

"In the north of the country, the situation is becoming more and more alarming. Thousands of people affected in one way or another by the armed conflict are completely dependent on humanitarian aid. They urgently need food, and medical care and other humanitarian services," said Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, the ICRC's head of operations for North and West Africa. "Additional funding will enable us to step up the assistance we are providing in cooperation with the Mali Red Cross."

"The price of food in the markets is far too high for most families to afford. The public sector is no longer providing basic health care or supplying clean drinking water, not least because many skilled civil servants had to flee the fighting and the lack of security. Residents are affected in the same way as the large numbers of displaced people," she added.

This marks the second time in 2012 that the ICRC is requesting additional funding for its activities in this part of the Sahel. With this new request, the ICRC's operation in Mali becomes its fourth biggest in the world in budgetary terms.

The additional funding will enable the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross to provide food aid for some 360,000 needy people in northern Mali – people directly affected by the hostilities, displaced by the conflict, or playing host to displaced people and sharing with them their meagre resources. In Mopti, in the middle of the country, food will be distributed to a further 60,000 people displaced from the north. Some 160,000 people have already received similar aid distributed in July and August in the north of the country. "Our food aid should reach nearly half a million people in the Kidal, Gao, Timbuktu and Mopti areas," said Ms Praz Dessimoz.

The ICRC intends to maintain its support for Gao hospital – the largest in northern Mali – and for the Ansongo referral health-care centre, and to provide medicines and medical supplies for nine community health-care centres.

It also plans to carry on providing fuel for the electricity generators in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu that ensure that water continues to be supplied to those cities' 60,000 inhabitants. "Maintaining the water supply is all the more important because cholera was reported on the outskirts of Gao in July and the risk of the disease flaring up again during the current rainy season is high," said Ms Praz Dessimoz.

The ICRC also visits detainees, in the north as in the south of the country, to monitor the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive. It shares its findings solely with those in charge.

The ICRC is one of only a very few humanitarian organizations that have access to all of the north of Mali.

For further information, please contact:
Germain Mwehu, ICRC Niamey, tel: +227 97 45 43 82 or +223 76 99 63 75
Jean-Yves Clémenzo, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17