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UN: 1.5 Million People in Mali Need Aid

  • Lisa Schlein

Map of Mali

Map of Mali

The United Nations is appealing for $377 million to provide humanitarian aid for more than 1.5 million people in Mali this year. The money will provide essential needs, such as food, shelter, hygiene, and education as well as advancing plans for early recovery from Mali’s recent civil war.

The appeal is the second phase of a U.N. three-year strategic plan launched in 2014 to help Mali get back on its feet after several years of internal conflict left the country and its people in shambles.

The plan is based on a twofold approach aimed at meeting the immediate needs of the most vulnerable people while working to strengthen livelihoods and communities.

Three years ago, Tuareg rebels began fighting the government for greater autonomy in the north. The war was soon co-opted by Islamist militants allied with al-Qaida. This ushered in a period of political unrest and a brief Islamist takeover of the north.

At the peak of the crisis, more than half-a-million people in northern Mali fled to neighboring countries. Spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Jens Laerke said nearly 400,000 people have since returned to the north.

“But, they face tremendous challenges in restarting their lives," added Laerke. "Lack of basic services, of health, education, water and sanitation is a very, very big issue. There are also still some 60,000 internally displaced people in Mali and 135,000 Malian refugees in neighboring countries.”

Laerke said it is not just people in the north who are in desperate straits, but that millions of people throughout the country are in a state of crisis and in great need of assistance.

“We estimate that a total of 2.6 million people will suffer from food insecurity this year," he said. "As almost half of the population in Mali are children, some 715,000 children will be affected by acute malnutrition this year. These are our projections. That means that they - 715,000 - are three to nine times more likely to die than children who are not affected.”

Laerke said the vast majority of children at risk are in the south, not in the north.

Progress has been made in reconstructing and stabilizing conflict-affected areas in the north of Mali. Nevertheless, militants remain active in the region, and the U.N. says persistent insecurity is slowing the resumption of basic social services and the restart of economic activities. They say hundreds of thousands of people still need humanitarian aid to survive.