25 April 2013

Mali: Northern Mali - Communities Affected By a Food Crisis

Photo: Katarina Hoije/IRIN
ICRC's food aid distribution.

press release

Northern Mali will descend to emergency levels (1) of food insecurity in less than two months if the security situation and humanitarian access to vulnerable communities do not improve, warned four international aid agencies today following the analysis of experts from the Harmonized framework (2).

As many as two thirds (3) of people from the three northern regions of Mali (Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal) are already living in crisis levels of food insecurity, and some parts of Kidal are already at emergency levels.

Markets surveys carried out recently by Action Against Hunger (ACF), Solidarités International, Welthungerhilfe and Oxfam, operating in these regions, show that prices for some basic foodstuff have spiralled since January 2013, increasing by up to 36 per cent in the Gao region, 30 per cent in the Timbuktu region, and 25 per cent in the Kidal region. In Kidal, an area where 94 per cent of households have to buy their food from local markets, two thirds of the traders who would normally supply the markets have left and trade flows of cereals have fallen by 60 per cent. The markets of Timbuktu and Goundam are also not well supplied with staples.

The 'lean' season - when food stocks run low before the next harvest - has started early this year. Herders have not been able to use traditional pastures and water points. At the same time, the value of livestock, particularly cattle and goats, has fallen, making it even harder for pastoralists to buy enough cereals. Alternative employment opportunities are rare and daily labor wages have fallen. In Gao, a day's work earned about $2.5 this time last year, but today that figure stands at between $1.5 and $2, affecting households purchasing power.

This worrying situation is mainly due to the consequences of the conflict - including roads being closed or inaccessible, the closure of the Algerian border, and the departure of many traders - added to poor production systems and poor agricultural infrastructure, predating the crisis.

"While international attention is focused on the UN peacekeeping mission, we risk losing sight on the current alarming humanitarian situation. Parents are already skipping meals in order to feed their children. People in the North will not be able to find enough food to feed their families through the months ahead before the next harvest," said Philippe Conraud, Oxfam Country Director in Mali. "It is vital that we act before we reach a point of no return about the food situation."

According to the Harmonised Framework, the humanitarian assistance planned to date will not cover all the needs. This is due to several priority areas being critically underfunded (4)- as of 24 April 2013, the UN emergency appeal for Mali had only received $106 million of the full amount - as well as difficulties encountered in accessing some areas due to the presence of armed groups, operations by Malian, African and French forces, banditry, presence of mines and other non-exploded ordinance.

Action Against Hunger (ACF), Solidarités International, Welthungerhilfe and Oxfam are calling on the international community and donors to scale up assistance to the most vulnerable. The four organizations recommend scaling up assistance on food, livelihoods, water and sanitation, nutrition, protection and improvement of access to water and health, and resilience building.

Signatory Organizations: Action Against Hunger, Oxfam, Solidarités International, Welthungerhilfe.

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