News / Africa

Northern Mali Residents Facing Food Crisis

Children get their food from leftovers at a restaurant in Gao, northern Mali, Feb. 8, 2013.
Children get their food from leftovers at a restaurant in Gao, northern Mali, Feb. 8, 2013.
Katarina Hoije

At a food distribution station in Bamako, Salimatou Maiga offers advice to the other women in line, advising them to add sugar and milk to the powdered porridge mix to improve the taste for their hungry children.

The West African nation's ongoing conflict, combined with the country’s lean season, is once again threatening to aggravate a food-scarcity situation for those still recovering from a brutal Islamist occupation.

The World Food Program says more than 1.5 million people are currently food insecure in Mali’s north; one in five households in the three northern regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu face extreme food shortages. 

During the lean season, June through October, some 1.9 million people — 40 percent of northern Mali's population — will have trouble finding their next meal.

“It’s only about 700,000 people who have received food assistance according to [the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]," said Erin Weir, protection and advocacy advisor with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC),adding that people are still suffering and the crisis is far from over.

"If you consider that 1.5 million people are in urgent need and the number is over 3.6 million overall who have some level of food insecurity, the fraction of people who have been helped compared to the number in need is huge. There’s a massive gap there," he said. "We know that food insecurity also prompts displacement. People who are [otherwise] not inclined to leave will [do so] to find food and water ... the absolute basic needs of life, and currently we are not able to fulfill those.”

Ongoing violence, displacement

Despite international military intervention and an election to restore a working government, violence is continues in the north, triggering news rounds of mass displacement. In May, thousands of people in the Kidal region were forced to flee following clashes between rebels and government troops.

To the south in Bandiagara, a district in the Mopti region hit hard by food scarcity, people have been forced to cut meals and sell items to survive.

Last year, rains failed in many areas across Mali, while this year the rains, usually at their heaviest between June and September, arrived late.

In the Timbuktu and Kidal regions, herders have warned that insufficient rains are making it difficult to find suitable pastures to sustain their livestock. Animals that used to sell for $500 are now in the market for a tenth of the price, according to one local non-governmental organization, and attacks on aid workers and supply trucks have disrupted food transport.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) halted food distribution outside the northern towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu following the attack and kidnapping of four of the organization’s staff members earlier this year.

According to Abdi Mohamed Dirieh, a Bamako-based ICRC official, the decision to halt aid shipments in May has left those fleeing recent violence with little or no assistance, and that although the organization has been slowly scaling up operations, things are not yet back to where they need to be.

While many of the displaced from northern Mali have gradually been returning since the ouster of Islamist insurgents in early 2013, many are still worried about their safety, says Weir of the NRC.

"Some people returning home ... don’t feel comfortable going back to their communities," he said. "Concerns about retributions and perceptions of who they are and who they might have been affiliated with during the conflict are an issue of concern. As power shifts in different areas, different allegiances means that certain people might feel secure one minute and not the next and, again, that’s why we see new displacements when power shifts.”

While the situation in the north remains difficult, life in Bamako is expensive, and many northerners have no choice but to return home says Weir.

But in Gao, people like Salimatou Maiga can only hope for peace to return soon.

You May Like

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: eusebio manuel vestias from: Portugal
August 30, 2014 7:30 AM
freedoms the hunger and injustice in poor communities of Mali

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs