GENEVA, Sep 13 – The International Committee of the Red Cross made its third appeal this year for funds for Mali on Thursday, saying that its people are “completely dependent” on humanitarian aid.
“In the north of the country, the situation is becoming more and more alarming,” the ICRC’s head of operations for North and West Africa, Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, told reporters in Geneva.
“Thousands of people affected in one way or another by the armed conflict are completely dependent on humanitarian aid.”
The request for 25 million francs ($27 million, 21 million euros) follows two appeals earlier this year by the Red Cross for 34 million francs to help Malians displaced by the armed conflict and suffering a food crisis.
With the funding, the ICRC plans to help 360,000 people in the north of the country, in addition to the 160,000 people already given aid in the vast northern triangle of the bow-tie shaped nation in July and August by the ICRC, in collaboration with the Mali Red Cross and local community leaders.
Food aid is also to be distributed to 60,000 people displaced from the north to Mopti in central Mali.
“Our food aid should reach nearly half a million people in the Kidal, Gao, Timbuktu and Mopti areas,” said Praz Dessimoz, who said that the ICRC – one of very few aid agencies operating in northern Mali – was in “regular contact” with armed groups in the north to facilitate aid distribution.
In addition to spiking food prices in the markets beyond the reach of ordinary Malians, the ICRC warned of an impending health crisis, caused by medical professionals fleeing the fighting and medical centres being bereft of supplies.
The ICRC hopes to reach most of those in need of food aid but it remains to be seen how much more help will be needed by struggling farming communities later on in the year.
“We will see how difficult it is for people to get to their fields (to farm them)” – Praz Dessimoz.
“We will see how difficult it is for people to get to their fields (to farm them),” said Praz Dessimoz, who said they had “absolutely nothing at all” to live on.
North Mali was seized by Islamist and Tuareg rebels in the chaos following a military coup in Bamako on March 22.
The fighting, which is largely over according to Praz Dessimoz apart from isolated incidents in urban areas, exacerbated the food shortages affecting the country along with the rest of the Sahel region, where millions have gone hungry after poor rains last year.
Since the fighting finished at the end of March, the Islamists chased out the Tuareg and exerted their control on a desert region larger than France, implementing strict Islamic law and destroying ancient World Heritage shrines they consider idolatrous.