Crisis in Mali: Half a Million Lives Hang in the Balance

Conflict and natural disaster threaten access to food in Mali
Woman with emergency food rations, Mali. Photo: ACF-Mali, L. Grosjean
A woman in Gao receives emergency food rations from Action Against Hunger. Photo: ACF-Mali, L. Grosjean

Conflict in Mali continues to threaten the safety and livelihoods of nearly half a million citizens who have fled violence in the nation’s north. Displaced people face food shortages in the wake of devastating droughts, rising food prices, and very limited means to produce food for themselves. The populous city of Gao has become all but a ghost town. 

“People in Gao continue to live in fear. Very few people have returned to the area after fleeing violence. Both fear and insecurity make it very difficult to start planning programs, and in the long term, we do not know when we can really start to work on recovery.”

– Frank Vannetelle, Action Against Hunger Country Director, Mali

Farming Disrupted

Harvests have suffered in the north because many farmers fled, forced to abandon their fields, while those who remained are too afraid for their safety to go to their fields. In addition to current security threats, recent natural disasters have hurt Mali’s food production. For example, the drought that swept through the Sahel region in 2012 has caused a major seed shortage. Farmers don’t have the seeds and other farming tools they need to prepare for the next planting season, which means many will produce less food, if any at all.  

Extreme Measures 

Even before the conflict, many Malians could barely afford meat or other food items. But recent events have only made conditions worse, causing food prices to rise dramatically while trade with neighboring countries has rapidly declined. As a result, those who can’t afford to pay more for food are resorting to extreme measures, trading assets and valuable possessions in exchange for food and eating fewer meals per day.

People who raise livestock are moving their flocks further away from their usual grazing pastures to protect the animals from being stolen. But even this precaution comes with risks, as these animals face fewer resources and greater rates of disease without access to vaccination campaigns that have been discontinued.

Response and Resilience

Many of our nutrition and food security programs continue in Mali, and we are working tirelessly to serve vulnerable communities affected by this crisis. Indeed, many of those Gao residents who have been displaced are participating in our programs in other regions.

“We are very concerned that two consecutive years of drought have left these populations too weakened to weather this current crisis. In the long term, the only solution is to help these populations recover and stabilize while helping to restore their resilience, as it’s crucial that they have the capacity to cope with future droughts when they arise.”

–Helena Valencia, Action Against Hunger Emergency Team Leader, Bamako

Our goal in providing emergency food supplies is not just to create a short-term solution for the immediate needs of people in the region. It is also to take a vital step in restoring a peaceful and stable future for Mali.

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Tags: Mali