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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid