News / Africa

Aid Agencies: Northern Mali Herders Face Food Insecurity

Cattle herder Adama Ouagalam tends to his animals where French troops are stationed fighting rebels, in Markala, Mali, January 2013.
Cattle herder Adama Ouagalam tends to his animals where French troops are stationed fighting rebels, in Markala, Mali, January 2013.
Jennifer Lazuta
Despite the prospect of good harvests this year, aid agencies are once again warning of food insecurity in Africa’s Sahel region. They are particularly concerned about northern Mali, where most families earn their livings from livestock. Many of the animals have been stolen or have died since conflict erupted in the north early last year.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that there has been a “significant deterioration” in the food security situation in northern Mali since last year. Regional security issues, coupled with rising food prices and the loss of income-earning animals, have left more than 3.5 million people without enough to eat.

A recent joint survey by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], the World Food Program [WFP] and the Malian government found that between 70 percent and 90 percent of the population will be in need of food aid until at least the end of December.

Complicating factors

"The situation in northern Mali is a matter of deep concern from our side because we know that there has been an accumulation of different crises," said Patrick David, deputy coordinator for the FAO’s Sub-Regional Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Office in the Sahel. "As you know, the entire Sahel region was hit by a food crisis in 2012. On top of that, Mali faced insecurity and political problems, which led to a massive displacement of population and total disruption of [the] economy because it was a war zone."

David said that those families who depend on animals for their livelihoods have been particularly hard hit.

"The majority of the population is pastoralists in the north. And these people faced some problems during the conflict because some of them have been looted, their cattle has been looted," he said. "And they lost access to veterinary services for the animals and their transhumance ways have been disrupted as well. So it was difficult for them to access the grazing areas."

Al Hassan Cisse, the regional food security advocacy coordinator for aid agency Oxfam, said that late, erratic rains this year also have hurt the herders.

He said the prolonged period of drought this year has created a lot of concern for pastoralists. The growth of vegetation was delayed, he said, leaving animals with little or nothing to eat. Many watering holes ran dry. He said that while many of the watering holes now are beginning to fill up, many also remain empty, particularly in Gao.

The loss of even just one animal represents a huge economic loss to a herder. Oxfam says it can take at least three years to rebuild a small stock of sheep or goats, and as many as 10 years to rebuild a lost herd of cattle.

Dire need

Cisse said not only are herders struggling to keep their animals alive, but rising food prices coupled with declining animal prices have greatly hurt the herders’ ability to buy food for themselves and their families.

Oxfam and the FAO say they have been working to distribute food to herders, restock lost animals, provide veterinary services, refill empty watering holes and engage herders in cash-for-work programs to help ease their burdens.

As more internally displaced persons and Malian refugees who fled to neighboring countries begin to return, though, aid agencies say that the food security situation in northern Mali could get worse before it gets better.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs