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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid