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Mali: situation alarming for people in north and centre

25-05-2012 Operational Update

In northern Mali, the situation of displaced people and residents is alarming. Displacement is increasing food insecurity in areas not directly affected by armed violence. The ICRC has begun distributing food to 23,000 displaced people in the Mopti area and fuel in Timbuktu and Kidal.

"Residents in Mali have shown remarkable solidarity with displaced people, sharing what little they have with those who have been driven from their homes," said Jürg Eglin, who heads the ICRC's regional delegation for Mali and Niger. "The burden on residents needs to be quickly relieved by moving aid into areas that have experienced an influx of displaced people." In the north of the country especially, for hundreds of thousands of people living in urban areas, but also for farmers and livestock herders just before the start of the agricultural season, the situation is extremely worrying because the country is going through a serious food crisis.

Some 32,000 people displaced in the Mopti area

The ICRC estimates that in the Mopti area, in the centre of the country where it recently opened an office, there are some 32,000 people who fled violence further north. Most are accommodated with host families. Because of last year's bad harvest, grain is in short supply. In some places, the last reserves have been long since exhausted, and people are beginning to gather tree leaves to feed themselves. The massive influx of displaced people is aggravating the already extremely difficult food situation.

On 23 May, in cooperation with the Mali Red Cross, the ICRC began to distribute food to more than 23,000 displaced people in Djenné, Bandjagara, Bankass and Koro, in the Mopti area. Last week, with ICRC support, the Mali Red Cross also distributed rice and millet to some 9,000 displaced people and household essentials to 1,200 displaced families in the Sikasso, Ségou and Mopti areas.

Maintaining the water supply in Timbuktu and Kidal

Clean drinking water could run short over the coming days in the cities of Timbuktu and Kidal because of a lack of fuel for the generators that run the pumps in water wells and treatment plants. To prevent this from happening and to avoid tragic consequences for thousands of people, the ICRC is supplying fuel for the generators in both cities. In Gao, in addition to supporting the hospital, the ICRC has been providing fuel for the power station since 8 April to ensure that the production of clean drinking water is maintained.

Farmers and livestock herders facing major hardship

Because of bad harvests in 2011-2012, food stocks are at dangerously low levels and farmers cannot meet their food needs without assistance. For stockbreeders, the season also fell far short of expectations. The feed balance, which is in deficit, is seriously disrupting the movement of livestock to market and rangeland environments. Moreover, because the security situation is preventing buyers from coming forward, breeders are basically unable to sell their livestock in Mali or in other countries in the region. Since the ability of the animals to move about and search for scarce pasture and water diminishes further every day owing to the lack of feed, the herdsmen have no choice but to practically give them away to the rare buyers they may still encounter at local markets.

Generally speaking, access to grain remains a crucial problem for people in the north of the country. The supply is severely disrupted by the conflict and by the unstable security environment, so much so that the price of basic foodstuffs is rising exponentially. In urban areas, banks are no longer operating. Workers are no longer receiving their pay. People's purchasing power is declining inexorably. It is becoming very difficult to obtain goods and services without ready money.

"It is absolutely essential that we have access to these people. Their needs are enormous, and terribly urgent," said Mr Eglin. "Seed needs to be given to farmers to enable them to plant their fields and hope for a good crop this year; at the same time, animal feed needs to be given to herders, emergency de-stocking must be undertaken and veterinary treatment has to be carried out to preserve the remaining livestock population."

Transfer of released detainees

In its capacity as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC facilitated the return home of eight people from the north of the country who were released in Bamako, where they had been detained in connection with the crisis. After transiting through Niamey, they were reunited with their families in Gao on 25 May. They had been visited twice by the ICRC during the period of their detention in Bamako.

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


Photos

Addrass, 30 km from Ménaka, Gao, Mali. Red Cross personnel distribute food to displaced persons. 

Addrass, 30 km from Ménaka, Gao, Mali. Red Cross personnel distribute food to displaced persons.
© ICRC / M. Douma

Mopti Branch, Malian Red Cross, central Mali. Red Cross volunteers distribute food and basic household items to families displaced from northern Mali. 

Mopti Branch, Malian Red Cross, central Mali. Red Cross volunteers distribute food and basic household items to families displaced from northern Mali.
© ICRC / C. Sekou

Ménaka, Gao, Mali. A Red Cross volunteer looks after a displaced child. 

Ménaka, Gao, Mali. A Red Cross volunteer looks after a displaced child.
© ICRC / M. Douma

Sévaré, Mopti, Mali. The ICRC and the Malian Red Cross distribute food and basic household items to displaced persons. 

Sévaré, Mopti, Mali. The ICRC and the Malian Red Cross distribute food and basic household items to displaced persons.
© ICRC / C. Sekou