GENEVA, Switzerland, February 28, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — As the situation worsens in the Sahel, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is appealing for 12.3 million Swiss francs (about 10 million euros) in order to bring aid to some 700,000 people in Mali and Niger and thereby help forestall a major humanitarian crisis in the two countries.
“People in Mali and Niger are facing a twofold crisis: the food insecurity that has afflicted the entire region, and the fighting in the north of Mali that is driving massive displacement,” said Boris Michel, the ICRC’s head of operations for North and West Africa.
The armed confrontations that have occurred in northern Mali in recent weeks have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in utter destitution and to seek refuge either within Mali, as at least 60,000 people have done, or in neighbouring countries. Those who have fled to Niger are concentrated in the northern Tillabéry region, one of the areas hardest hit by the food crisis and the scene of recent inter-community violence.
“The fighting has resulted in casualties. In addition, people have been taken captive and families have been dispersed,” said Mr Michel. The ICRC’s priorities are to visit people detained in connection with the fighting and to provide care for the wounded either directly, through the Mali Red Cross or by supporting health-care facilities.
“We also plan to continue to provide aid for displaced people,” added Mr Michel. “We are preparing to distribute food to 84,000 people and emergency supplies to around 60,000. Shelter, clean drinking water, hygiene items and health care will also be made available as needed.”
The fighting in northern Mali is further straining a part of the Sahel already hard hit by a lack of rainfall and by recurrent food crises. “The shortfall in agricultural production and the lack of feed for the livestock are affecting countless families of farmers and herders in Mali and Niger,” said Mr Michel. “Some of them were never able to recover from the effects of the crisis of two years ago. Their situation is particularly difficult.”
The aid that the ICRC plans to provide is intended for people in the Kidal, Gao and Tombouctou areas in the north of Mali, and in the Tillabéry and Agadez areas of Niger. “What we are striving to achieve is not only to save lives but also to provide support for the people’s own resilience,” said Mr Michel. Accordingly, the plan includes distributing food to over 240,000 people, buying livestock at a reasonable price to preserve the livelihood of 120,000 nomads, and distributing seed to increase the productive capacity of 90,000 farmers.
The funds requested will be additional to the 22.3 million Swiss francs (approximately 18.3 million euros) initially budgeted for 2012.
In addition to the emergency actions it is taking in Mali and Niger, the ICRC conducts longer-term activities in the two countries, in particular to help detainees and to improve economic security, access to water and health care. The ICRC has been performing its humanitarian tasks in the region in close cooperation with the Mali Red Cross and the Red Cross Society of Niger since 2009.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)