Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mali: People still fleeing the fighting

Source: ICRC

As clashes continue in the north of the country, the humanitarian situation of displaced people is worsening against a backdrop of food crisis. At least 60,000 people are now displaced within Mali, while more than 22,000 others have found refuge in Niger.

Alarming humanitarian situation

"In northern Mali, the people who have abandoned their homes and their fields, and lost their livestock and their everyday activities, have no idea what to do," said Jürg Eglin, the head of the ICRC's regional delegation for Mali and Niger. "Many families, including some with very young children, pregnant women or elderly people, are living under trees or out in the open. Women and children have been traumatized by the fighting. In addition, those displaced are finding it hard to get supplies." The same is true everywhere the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross have been over the past few days: Ménaka, Aguelhoc, Tessalit, Inhalid, Niafunké and Léré.

Massive displacement is occurring just as the north of Mali and indeed the entire Sahel region are coping with a desperate food situation due mainly to poor harvests. Limited supplies in markets have triggered an increase in the prices of basic necessities, weakening the situation of tens of thousands of people.

In addition, displaced people face a shortage of water and pasture land, especially in the Ménaka area, Gao region. The scarcity of resources could lead to tension, since animal breeding and farming are the main means of eking out a living.

In the Kidal and Ménaka areas, fighting has forced the ICRC to suspend a major campaign to vaccinate and treat livestock that had begun in December of last year. The campaign is still going ahead, as best it can, in the Gao, Bourem, Asongo, Tombouctou and Gourma Rharouss areas.

More than 60,000 people displaced

On 11 and 12 February, in Aguelhoc, in the Kidal area, 4,200 people who fled the fighting received emergency food aid. Some 1,200 of them were also given other essential items.

The ICRC and the Mali Red Cross are preparing to bring aid as quickly as possible to tens of thousands of other displaced people, including in particular approximately 26,000 people in and around Ménaka.

In the village of Inhalid, 100 kilometres north of Tessalit, Kidal region, Red Cross personnel found nearly 11,000 people displaced by the fighting in the area. Another 4,200 people have taken refuge in Abanco, 125 kilometres south of Tessalit, following clashes.

In the Niafounké area, Tombouctou region, the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross have uncovered more than 11,000 displaced people living in great poverty.

The situation in some of the larger communities in the north of Mali is no better. In Gao, in particular, several thousand people have arrived from the Ménaka area.

The ICRC currently has an office in Gao, and it also conducts operations from Kidal and Tombouctou.

22,000 people taking refuge in Niger

Although there are currently fewer people flowing into Niger, over 22,000 people from the north of Mali are in 23 villages in the Tillabéry area, in the west of Niger, a zone seriously affected by the food crisis. The ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger have provided emergency rations of millet, rice, oil, salt and other essentials for 17,000 of them.