The situation in northern Mali remains worrying. The lack of security and the shortage of seed make it difficult to farm the land. To provide relief, the ICRC has distributed food to some 400,000 people.
People in the north of Mali are still having difficulty meeting their basic food needs even though rainfall has been adequate. "Because of the conflict situation, most people have not benefited from the growing season this year," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the head of the ICRC regional delegation for Mali and Niger. "As a result, they will still need emergency food aid for as long as it takes to develop new ways of supporting themselves."
At a time when preparations for a military intervention are under way, the ICRC is drawing attention to the fact that any military operation would likely have a human cost. "These people already have difficulty obtaining food and basic services," said Mr Marti. "We are asking all those who might take part in the conflict to consider the impact of such an operation."
In cooperation with the Mali Red Cross, the ICRC is pressing on with a vast programme of food aid in the northern part of Mali and in the Douentza administrative subdivision of the Mopti region. To date, some 400,000 needy people have been given rice, beans, cooking oil and iodized salt. Thanks to these food supplies, people have reserves to see them through until the next harvest. The ICRC will continue to provide food aid until next month.
To help needy people, the ICRC has undertaken the so-called "de-stocking" of animal herds (local livestock are purchased and slaughtered, and the meat is then distributed to those in greatest need). So far, more than 10,000 head of a planned 15,000 have been "de-stocked" in the Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu areas.
Brush fires put people at risk
No sooner had the rainy season regenerated pastures than spontaneous brush fires emerged as a new challenge in rural areas of Mali. On 18 October, large-scale brush fires covering a 160-kilometre radius caused major damage in the Timbuktu region. The fires destroyed 115 homes, burned livestock and damaged millet fields and granaries. In all, nearly 700 people were directly affected, including some families that had returned from Burkina Faso.
"This situation is especially worrying because the people had already been made vulnerable by the crises in the region," said Mr Marti. "If the brush fires spread to other areas people will not be able to cope, and the consequences will be disastrous in humanitarian terms." In order to help the people affected, the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross gave them food and such household essentials as tarpaulins, mosquito nets, blankets, kitchen utensils, buckets, clothing and hygiene items.
Thousands of people need water
At this time of year, water is scarce in northern Mali both for domestic use and for livestock. The small number of ponds that were filled during the rainy season are gradually drying up. The ICRC recently resumed renovation work on 12 wells in the six rural communities of the Timbuktu region. The work had been suspended in March because of the armed conflict. To improve access to water for people and livestock and to reduce friction between people around water points, the ICRC also resumed efforts to upgrade four rural water stations in the Timbuktu region.
The ICRC has been maintaining its support for the hospital in Gao, the only referral health-care facility in the northern part of Mali. Medicines and medical supplies have been distributed to all hospital departments. Since October, 167 people have been admitted to the facility and 3,970 patients have been seen by the hospital staff. The ICRC also provides medicines and other support for 10 community health-care centres.