Dakar — Some 6,500 Malians forced to flee to a remote area near the border with Algeria following the French-led military intervention against Islamist fighters are surviving under trees and in wrecked vehicles without sufficient food, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
They fled to Tin Zaouatène area in Mali's north-eastern Kidal region. Most of them are from Kidal, Gao and Ménaka in the north of the country.
"The displaced... had to leave everything behind and are living in utter destitution," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC in Mali and Niger in a 11 February statement. "People are living under trees and in abandoned houses or burnt-out vehicles. They have no food to eat."
Neither the displaced nor the locals who have taken some in can cross the border to buy more supplies in Algeria, which closed its border last month after the military operation started.
ICRC is sending an aid convoy from Niger's capital Niamey to Tin Zaouatène in the coming 48 hours. Access to the area has been possible thus far. Simon Schormo, ICRC spokesman in Mali, told IRIN: "We are doing what we can with limited funds, but there are always more needs," noting the there was an urgent need for health services.
Though accurate figures are difficult to obtain, the recent conflict in Mali has displaced a further 14,242 people to the south and the central regions and forced 21,986 more across the border to Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.