News

    Aid Agencies Run Convoys to Northern Mali

    A woman helps load relief supplies onto a truck bound for northern Mali, April 13, 2012.
    A woman helps load relief supplies onto a truck bound for northern Mali, April 13, 2012.
    Nancy Palus

    The first convoy delivering food and medicines to rebel-occupied northern Mali just returned to the capital Bamako. Aid workers are looking to this and other aid missions for insights and logistical tips as they prepare future convoys to the region, where armed groups reign and tens of thousands of people need assistance. 

    Aid organizations looted

    When Tuareg rebels and other armed groups seized Mali’s three main northern regions, the offices of aid groups were among countless buildings looted.  U.N. agencies, the International Red Cross and many other groups suspended operations in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, just as people lost access to health services and food, and their needs skyrocketed.

    Northern Mali - long a hub for armed groups profiting from smuggling and kidnappings - has for years been a challenging terrain for aid groups.  Now, with Tuareg separatist rebels and Islamist groups such as Ansar Dine in control, aid agencies must navigate a complicated new environment.

    New challenges

    One new challenge is some armed groups’ rejection of any aid coming in from outside Mali.

    Three vehicles loaded with supplies and sent by the local organization Cri de Coeur returned from the north before dawn on Thursday.  Assoumane Maïga is a founding member of the group. “We received the information from our contact people that Ansar Dine said there is no problem if you have any kind of aid you want to bring to the people, please do it.  But the only issue is we don’t want you to bring something from international organizations - we only want [things] from Mali," he explained. "From Islamic people.  During the trip they wanted to know the origin of every single item in the convoy  - ‘Where did you get this from? Who gave you this?’ We had to explain.”

    But Maïga said he doesn’t think this restriction can stand.  He notes that supplies such as anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS patients must come from outside. “If we need ARVs - Mali doesn’t make ARVs.  If we need to face some epidemic diseases or we want to support people who are already sick, Mali cannot do this without World Health Organization, without the International Red Cross, without the World Food Program.”

    Foreign aid - rejected

    For now, it is not clear how systematic the rejection of international supplies is among the groups controlling the north.  Learning more about this is one of the aims of a Red Cross mission that left Bamako for Timbuktu on Wednesday.

    Abdourahamane Cissé is president of the Malian Red Cross.  He says the agency - through the work of its local volunteers - was able to get Tuareg rebels and Ansar Dine to accompany the convoy once it arrives in the north.  He said this week’s mission has several objectives.

    The mission, he says, is first a way to get a foothold and provide some emergency aid.  But the team will also use the mission to evaluate needs on the ground - for now they don’t have a clear idea of the needs.

    There has been much talk in the media about the need for humanitarian corridors in Mali.  Laurent Dufour is Mali emergency coordinator with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  He said this is a bit of a misnomer as there is not intense fighting that is blocking vehicles from getting in.  He said it is more a question of guaranteeing what aid officials call “humanitarian space."

    “We don’t have a situation with a blockade or a geographically locked area.  What we’re asking as humanitarian partners here to help the people of Mali whoever they are, wherever they are, is to be able to operate properly - to have a minimum guarantee of safety, a minimum guarantee that we can work according to the way we should work, the way we should be able to identify those most in need in an impartial way,” said Dufour.

    A few agencies have continued to work in small local teams throughout and since the rebel takeover of the north, including Doctors of the World. Olivier Vandecasteele, the agency’s coordinator in Mali, says the situation highlights the importance of humanitarian principles.

    He said humanitarian aid must comply with certain principles - including that the only objective must be the alleviation of suffering and protection of life, and that aid must be completely neutral with no political, military or economic objective.  He said these principles must be understood and accepted by all parties to the conflict.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.