News / Africa

Political, Military Insecurity Deepen Mali Humanitarian Crisis

In this Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012 photo, members of Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard around the area where they are preparing to amputate the hand of a young man found guilty of stealing rice, in Timbuktu, Mali. In a report launched Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, Amnesty International says it has documented 'horrific abuses' against civilians in Islamist-controlled northern Mali, including the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, extra-judicial executions, and seven amputations just since August. (AP Photo)In this Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012 photo, members of Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard around the area where they are preparing to amputate the hand of a young man found guilty of stealing rice, in Timbuktu, Mali. In a report launched Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, Amnesty International says it has documented 'horrific abuses' against civilians in Islamist-controlled northern Mali, including the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, extra-judicial executions, and seven amputations just since August. (AP Photo)
x
In this Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012 photo, members of Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard around the area where they are preparing to amputate the hand of a young man found guilty of stealing rice, in Timbuktu, Mali. In a report launched Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, Amnesty International says it has documented 'horrific abuses' against civilians in Islamist-controlled northern Mali, including the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, extra-judicial executions, and seven amputations just since August. (AP Photo)
In this Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012 photo, members of Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard around the area where they are preparing to amputate the hand of a young man found guilty of stealing rice, in Timbuktu, Mali. In a report launched Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, Amnesty International says it has documented 'horrific abuses' against civilians in Islamist-controlled northern Mali, including the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, extra-judicial executions, and seven amputations just since August. (AP Photo)
Lisa Schlein
Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), says the political and military insecurity in Mali is deepening the country's humanitarian crisis.  He says he is concerned that little thought is being given to the humanitarian situation in Mali by international political and military decision-makers.  

Mali is no stranger to humanitarian crises.  At the moment it is facing a long-term structural food crisis, which Maurer says is compounded by the breakdown of the political system.

The situation is particularly bleak in the north, where radical Islamist groups have ousted both the country's military and Tuareg rebels who have long waged war for an independent state.  The radicals' harsh brand of Islam is alienating and terrorizing the local population.  It also is creating huge problems for aid organizations trying to operate in the region.

Maurer says the ICRC has been working for months to improve its access to needy people in the north.  He says the agency is now distributing food to 420,000 people.  In addition, he says the ICRC is supplying medicines and other supplies to the hospital in the city of Gao and to communal health-care facilities.

But, he says, he is concerned that international political and military decision-makers may not be giving enough thought to Mali's humanitarian situation in their talks.  He says this was an issue he explored with senior government officials he met during a visit to Niger and Mali at the end of October.

"I tried to impress on them, that more consideration is given in whatever political and military planning they are doing to humanitarian concerns.  It is no secret, this is an extremely delicate situation where we have half-a-million people who cannot sustain their lives in the north.  Roughly half of the population remaining is dependent at the present moment on aid from outside," said Maurer.

The United Nations reports more than 200,000 people are displaced inside Mali and another 250,000 have fled as refugees to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

Ansar Dine, one of the Islamist groups occupying northern Mali, said this week it is ready to commit to a process of political dialogue with the country's transitional authorities and is ready to stop hostilities.  

Despite this, the drumbeat for war is growing stronger.  Regional plans to invade northern Mali and oust the Muslim extremists are being discussed by the United Nations, the African Union and Economic Commission of West Africa States.  

Maurer is carefully monitoring these maneuvers.  But, he notes that he, as president of a humanitarian organization, can not express an opinion on military and political strategies.  He says it is up to political leaders to decide on the actions they wish to take.

"My visit to Addis Ababa, then to Niger and to Mali was to get a sense of those discussions.  And, when listening to the leaders in the region and beyond, my conclusion is that there is a lot of talk on how to liberate the north, how to re-conquer the north," he said.  "But, there is little consideration of what the humanitarian impact of whatever scenario would be."

Maurer says it is his task to remind all the leaders engaged in this process, that the military decisions they make carry with them a humanitarian price tag, which have consequences and cannot be ignored.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
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 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 Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
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.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid