Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

Mali: averting disaster

Publisher International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Publication Date 13 April 2012
Cite as International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mali: averting disaster, 13 April 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f9a93792.html [accessed 26 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The crisis affecting northern Mali since mid-January has made it difficult for the population to obtain health care, water and food. Following violence and looting in early April, the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross are striving to meet some of the most acute needs.

"We urgently need to regain access to everyone affected," said Jürg Eglin, head of the ICRC's regional delegation for Mali and Niger. "We're especially anxious to reach people who are injured or sick, as well as detainees. We're also concerned about the tens of thousands of displaced people who have not yet received any assistance."

"Humanitarian work in northern Mali is a major challenge in the current climate," he added. "Violence and looting have severely hampered the operations of a number of agencies."

Drinking water and health care

In Gao city, power shortages are posing a threat to the operation of the water-treatment plant and to the process of sinking of boreholes as a source of drinking water for the residents. On 8 April, the ICRC supplied 20,000 litres of fuel to the power station in order to keep it running and maintain the water supply to tens of thousands of people. The organization plans to furnish 5,000 litres of fuel every day for a month.

"In Gao, the hospital was looted from top to bottom," said Mr Eglin. "But some of the medical staff who fled the violence have now returned, so they should be able to resume key services such as the emergency and obstetrics wards." To hasten the resumption of care, the ICRC delivered medicines and other supplies to Gao hospital on 12 April. On the same day, it also delivered fuel for the hospital generator to restore the power supply and guarantee an independent supply of water for vital medical services.

With the consent of the armed groups, the ICRC has facilitated several transports of injured and sick people to health-care facilities and individual doctors for treatment. One such case involved taking a pregnant women from Kidal to Niamey in Niger.

In Niafunké, in the Timbuktu region, a team of first-aiders and a nurse from the Mali Red Cross enabled service to resume at the hospital.

Enormous need for humanitarian action

People throughout northern Mali are in dire need of aid. The situation has been aggravated by the widespread food crisis. "We're helping on a limited scale where we ascertain specific needs," said Mr Eglin. "This is a first step for the ICRC in this new and confusing environment. It's essential that the parties on the ground ensure the conditions required for humanitarian action to resume fully."

At this stage, the ICRC's priority is to establish dialogue with all the parties in order to obtain guarantees for the safety of its staff and security for equipment and supplies needed to carry out humanitarian operations. With the support of ICRC staff in Bamako and Niamey, major efforts are under way to meet the needs, despite the fact that the organization has only a modest presence in Gao and Timbuktu.

The ICRC is also hard at work in neighbouring countries (particularly northern Burkina Faso, south-eastern Mauritania and the Tillabéry region of Niger), where tens of thousands of Malians have sought refuge, often in conditions of great hardship. The organization's work there is being carried out jointly with the local National Red Cross Societies.

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