Roadside bombs, insecurity cuts off neediest in Mali – aid groups


Roadside bombs and continued insecurity in Mali are preventing relief groups from providing food and medicine to the most vulnerable communities, aid groups said on Friday.

Conflict in Mali erupted in 2012, when a loose coalition of separatist rebels and al Qaeda-linked militants swept across the north of the country before a French-led military intervention in 2013 drove them from the main towns they had been occupying.

Fighting has uprooted 90,000 people within the West African country, while another 130,000 Malians have fled to neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger.
“There are many pockets of humanitarian need, and these are very hard to respond to because the insecurity is very high, and the country is very large,” Muriel Tschopp from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Seasonal rain resulted in flooding in the northern town of Ménaka last weekend, leaving 4,000 people homeless. But the road to the town is a prime target for roadside bombs, making it difficult to gain access, the NRC said.

It added that insecurity had forced it to transport staff by plane to many areas at great expense. Areas with no airstrip in a country twice the size of France were cut off, it added.
“The insecurity that prevails in parts of the country hinders humanitarian access, precisely to some of the most vulnerable communities where it is generating new needs,” said Mbaranga Gasarabwe, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Mali, in a statement on Friday.

The United Nations estimates that 3.1 million people in Mali face serious hunger, of whom 410,000 need immediate assistance.

NRC says 700,000 children are acutely malnourished.

Food distributions have been delayed or suspended because of the violence, while several schools where meals were being provided by the U.N.’s World Food Programme have been forced to close, WFP has said.

High levels of criminality are also contributing to the tense humanitarian situation in Mali, Tschopp said.

She also expressed concern a peace deal signed in June between the Malian government and Tuareg-led rebels “may be contributing to the illusion that the need for aid is less urgent”.

The U.N.-brokered peace deal excluded Islamist fighters, some linked to al Qaeda, who have continued to carry out sporadic attacks despite the presence of some 3,000 French troops in the region and several thousand U.N. peacekeepers in Mali.