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Northern Mali on the brink of a new food crisis

Published: 31 January 2014

Bamako, Mali: Ahead of the Sahel Appeal to be launched by the United Nations on the 3rd February 2014 in Rome, 11 humanitarian agencies warn that northern Mali is set to face another serious food crisis unless funds are rapidly mobilized.

More than 800,000 people need immediate food assistance, and across the country three million people are at risk of not finding enough to eat, according to the result of the December 2013 Harmonized Framework which convenes non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governments, and United Nations agencies working on food security in the Sahel. More than half of these people are living in northern Mali.

The combined effects of armed conflict and the lasting impacts of the 2012 food crisis in the north of Mali, combined with poor recent harvests, have had a severe effect on populations, limiting access to food and livelihoods for the most vulnerable, said ACF, ACTED, AVSF, CARE International, DRC, Handicap International, IRC, Plan International, Oxfam, Solidarités International and World Vision.

Increasing food insecurity

Franck Vannetelle, Director of Action Against Hunger in Mali, said: “The number of vulnerable people facing a new food crisis is likely to double if the needs identified are not met quickly”. In July 2013, a World Food Programme (WFP) report highlighted that 75.2 per cent of households were food insecure in the regions of Gao, Timbuktu, Kidal and Mopti. This number has continued to rise in recent months.

The ‘lean’ season – when food stocks run low before the next harvest – will start early this year. The late arrival of rains, the low availability of cereal stocks in households, poor harvests in some parts of the country and the failure of markets to function properly mean that people have not been able to recover since last year’s lean season. Herders have not been able to use traditional pastures and water points critical for the survival of their animals because of insecurity.

Hélène Quéau, Head of Mission for Solidarités International in Mali, said: “The volatile security situation increases pressure on infrastructure and basic services in more secure areas, and disrupts the economic activities essential for people to recover, making them vulnerable to the slightest shock.” The difficult situation is likely to see more people migrating and getting in to debt in order to cope.

Greater technical and financial resources needed

Humanitarian organizations are calling for a rapid response. The UN’s emergency appeal for Mali in 2013 was only 55 per cent funded. The outlook for 2014 is already proving bleak with a drastic cut in contributions from certain emergency and development donors. Greater technical and financial resources are needed to respond to the onset of this food crisis.

Osseni Amadou, Emergency Coordinator at CARE International Mali, said: “Food and nutrition support in the north of Mali should be stepped up in anticipation of the early hunger gap in 2014”. It should be done in parallel with interventions to support capacities of population to be resilient and also anticipate and prepare to recurrent crisis.

Mohamed Coulibaly, Oxfam Director in Mali said: “The response to immediate humanitarian needs must be combined with a vision and commitment to implementing sustainable solutions. We have to invest in agricultural and pastoral policies that place family farming at their heart, as well as introduce social protection policies and food reserves that make people less vulnerable to shocks.”

ENDS

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