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Mali: food for worst-affected people in north

16-07-2012 News Release 12/149

Geneva / Niamey (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) launched a large-scale food distribution on 14 July in Gao and Timbuktu regions to assist the people worst affected by the combined effects of the violence and the food crisis.

A similar operation will also be carried out in Kidal region in the coming weeks. The distributions are being conducted in conjunction with the Mali Red Cross, beginning in the regional capitals before being rolled out in all the municipalities in northern Mali.

"People in the north are no longer able to meet their basic food needs," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC delegation for Mali and Niger. "Food is scarce and expensive. Most families have been hit doubly hard: both by poor crops in 2011 and by the current conflict." They had no income to buy what they needed, he said. With the rainy season starting, they would also need seed to plant their fields, in the hope of a good harvest next year.

The first phase of the operation will last about three weeks. More than 160,000 people identified as the most vulnerable members of the population will receive rice, semolina, beans, oil and salt. In addition, as the new farming cycle begins, rice and sorghum seed will be distributed to some 42,000 farmers in Gao, Timbuktu and Mopti regions in order to boost food production.

The ICRC will also buy around 10,000 weak livestock (goats, sheep and cows) at a generous price from some 5,000 herding families in northern Mali's three regions. With this income, the herders will then be able to buy grain and other essential supplies. The livestock will be slaughtered and the meat distributed to those most in need. Animal feed will also be distributed to herders to help them preserve their livestock.

Since the beginning of April, violence in the region had forced the ICRC to scale back its presence and suspend aid distributions to displaced people. "By engaging in dialogue with all the armed groups and other actors on the ground, we are now in a position to resume large-scale activities throughout northern Mali," said head of delegation Marti. "We hope conditions will remain favourable so we can successfully conduct the full operation as planned."

For further information, please contact:
Germain Mwehu, ICRC Niamey, tel: +227 97 45 43 82 or +223 76 99 63 75
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 11 or +41 79 536 92 50