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Mali: humanitarian aid must resume as soon as possible

05-04-2012 News Release 12/78

Geneva/Niamey (ICRC) – The humanitarian situation in northern Mali is becoming ever more critical, in particular for tens of thousands of people displaced by fighting since mid-January.

The insecurity and confusion of recent days have had an effect on many services that are essential for the population, such as those provided by health-care centres and hospitals. Humanitarian organizations have been affected as well, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gao and – to a lesser extent – in Timbuktu.

"People in the region, who were already hard hit by the food crisis afflicting the entire Sahel, find themselves without food aid or access to health care," said Boris Michel, the ICRC's head of operations for North and West Africa. "It is essential to be able to respond as quickly as possible to humanitarian needs that are likely to increase further in the days and weeks to come."

After the ICRC's warehouses were looted and property of the organization and its staff was stolen on 1 April, the ICRC was forced to temporarily reduce its presence in northern Mali. Its international staff were transferred to Niamey, in Niger, two days ago. "Nevertheless, we do still have personnel in Gao and also in Timbuktu, including the head of our northern Mali office," said Mr Michel. "We remain present and active in Bamako, too."

"There are many weapon bearers in the region's towns and villages. It is imperative that we establish or re-establish a dialogue with them," said Mr Michel. "The strictly neutral and impartial humanitarian role of the ICRC must be accepted by all. Our staff, and our buildings, vehicles and other property – all of which are indispensable to providing aid for victims of the fighting – must also be respected."

By last week, the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross had distributed food and essential items to nearly 40,000 people displaced by violence. They had also provided grain for 73,000 people affected by the food crisis in northern Mali.

Owing to the abrupt interruption of these distributions and in view of the deterioration in the humanitarian situation, tens of thousands of other people urgently need aid. In addition, it is vital that visits to detainees and aid for the wounded be resumed.

For further information, please contact:
Jürg Eglin, ICRC Niamey, tel: +227 96 85 78 68
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 11 or +41 79 536 92 50


Photos

Gao, northern Mali. A displaced person receives a sack of millet. 

Gao, northern Mali. A displaced person receives a sack of millet.
© ICRC / D. Mahamadou

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