Aid groups mull expanding in northern Mali

February 6, 2013

"Relief groups are considering resuming or expanding their operations in northern Mali after French and Malian troops took key towns from militant Islamists who controlled the region for nine months. Insecurity in the north during this period disrupted and restricted aid operations and also prevented free movement of the local population. 'The problem of access was double-edged. Many people who were being treated for malnutrition could not get to the health centres while health workers could not reach them. The main roads were blocked,' said Lucile Grosjean, the emergency communication coordinator for Action Against Hunger (ACF). 'The situation is still fluid. We have to wait and see how it evolves. Just a month ago Gao [northeastern town] was under the control of MUJAO [Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa],' Grosjean told IRIN. MUJAO was one of three Islamist and Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups that seized swathes of territory in Mali’s north. ACF, which runs nutrition and health programmes in northern Mali, continued operations throughout the period of Islamist rule, but only in the main towns and had to suspend field operations by mobile medical teams, Grosjean said, adding that the priority now was to 'expand our programme around Gao.'"