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MALI: Over One Million People In Need Of Food Aid

UN Humanitarian Affairs (Dr. Claudia R. Wintoch)

6 March 2005




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As you read this UN report below, I want to remind you that we are still seeking to start a Malian NGO to be able to do something about this. The first step is to have a car (only yesterday I was looking at some cars, but it seems they are even more expensive than I thought), then we will proceed. Jesus did not only give the people spiritual food and life, but he cared for their physical need. It's long been my desire to go to the affected areas bringing food as well as the gospel.

MALI: More than a million people in need of food aid

More than one million people in regions of Mali badly hit last year by a disastrous combination of locusts and poor rain will need food aid in 2005, officials said Friday.

Crops and cattle in 101 districts have suffered, leaving food stocks dangerously low, according to a food security evaluation mission conducted by the government's early warning department (SAP).

"101 districts, particularly Mopti, Tombouctou and Gao, recorded a strong drop in cereal production and revenues during the year, and may experience an early and more difficult-than-usual lean period," Mamy Coulibaly, who heads SAP's technical department, told IRIN from Bamako on Friday.

The Mopti district, east of Bamako, straddles the delta of the Niger River and is the rice growing centre of the country.

The river which helps feed largely arid Mali also runs through the other two regions, the country's largest district Tombouctou, in the northwest, and eastern Gao. All three regions are nomadic or semi-nomadic.

Oxfam, the UK-based NGO, said food security early February in western Gao had deteriorated since October, when swarms of locusts and erratic rains harmed millet and sorghum crops as well as pastures.

"In villages in the north of Bourem (450 km northwest of Bamako, in Gao region), we found hundreds of carcasses in outlying nomadic areas, and people were thinner, and distressed, and wanting to leave", said Helene Berton, Oxfam's coordinator for West Africa.

"There was also overcrowding of cattle in the areas around the Niger river", Berton, who took part in the mission, told IRIN in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

She added that Oxfam's three local partners in that region estimated that close to 100,000 people would be in need of food aid within two months.

The dry season starting in March would further weaken people there as both food stocks and fodder for animals had run out and could not be replenished until September, she said.

Pablo Recalde, from the World Food Programme's (WFP) Mali office, said the situation was far worse than expected and that a southbound exodus was under way.

"Along the 15th parallel the situation is worrying, cattle are dying, millet and sorghum prices are skyrocketing, herds are already going south, increasing the pressure on pasture."

"A relatively long-term exodus is also taking place".

Relief organizations are working with the Malian government to provide food aid. WFP has launched an emergency operation to give 12,000 tons of food to the most vulnerable people and provide food for work for others. Oxfam plans to hand out rations to 2,100 families in the Gao region for two months.

But both organizations said it was difficult raising funds for food aid for Africa in the wake of the tsunami which ravaged South-East Asia in December, channelling many international resources to the region.