Tag Archives: Mali

War, Drought, and Hunger in Mali

WFP/Jane Howard

WFP/Jane Howard

As conflict in Mali escalates so too does hunger and displacement in the African nation. The UN Refugee Agency warns “that stepped up aid was vital to prevent a worsening of the humanitarian situation.”

Mali’s government, backed by French forces, has launched an offensive against rebels associated with Al-Qaeda in the northern part of the country. Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department says, “it’s absolutely critical to stop the offensive of terrorist groups toward southern Mali, to prevent the collapse of the government.”

There are reports of rebel forces carrying out executions and amputations of civilians. In the conflict-affected areas food and fuel are in short supply.

Over 230,000 have been displaced inside Mali while over 140,000 people have fled to other countries in the Sahel region of Africa. Mali and its neighbors have suffered recently from drought so these are countries already in a weakened state. Critical to war and drought relief is feeding programs, especially those for children who are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.

The UN World Food Programme is running an emergency operation which provides “food assistance, nutritional support and emergency school feeding to 564,000 vulnerable people affected by the crisis.” This includes Plumpy’Sup, a peanut paste used to prevent deadly malnutrition in children under the age of five.

WFP is in desperate need of funding close to US $ 200 million dollars for both its operation inside Mali as well as relief for refugees who have fled to other countries.

The McGovern-Dole program, named after former Senators George McGovern and Bob Dole, is also funding school meals for children in Mali. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) received the funding and provides the food.

Helen Blakesley of CRS says the program is feeding more than 75,000 children at primary and secondary schools in the Mopti and Koulikoro areas.

Kristina Brayman, who runs the CRS school feeding in Mali says, “It means children receive a hot, nutritious meal each day, using US donated food complemented by both local foods from school gardens and purchased through funds collected by the community. Without that food, many students would not eat a square meal at all. It motivates parents to send their children to school, especially girls, and means the children are able to grow, develop, and maximize their learning potential. It really is essential.”

The McGovern-Dole program will have its future funding decided in the US Congress soon. The program in Mali is an example of what a difference this humanitarian aid can make.

As the conflict and hunger persist in Mali the international community will need to support aid agencies.

Article first published as War, Drought, and Hunger in Mali on Blogcritics.

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Hunger and Fear in the Sahel of Africa

A drought-ravaged field in the Keyes region of southwestern Mali. Already impoverished families lost their food supply and source of income because of the drought. Credits: WFP/ Daouda Guirou

There is a struggle for survival ongoing for millions of people suffering from hunger in the Sahel region of Africa. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says that “one child in five in the Sahel dies before the age of five – malnutrition is an associated cause of more than 30% of these deaths.”

The Sahel includes the countries of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, the Gambia, and Senegal.

Drought and conflict have caused food shortages, and families can survive only with humanitarian aid as they await the next harvest. There have been some good rains recently to encourage the growing of food. These same rains have also produced flooding that has impacted over a million people in the Sahel.

Refugee Crisis from Mali Conflict

The Sahel food crisis is also complicated because of a massive flow of refugees from Mali. In Northern Mali there has been fighting between the government and armed extremist groups. As one victim told the director of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), “Fear pushed me to leave my home. I saw people being killed in front of me when Gossi was taken over by armed groups at the end of June. I did not want to wait for my turn.”

The US State Department is alarmed by the increasing violence in Northern Mali and is urging a resolution to the conflict, stating, “We repeat the call on armed groups in northern Mali to renounce any connection with terrorist groups and enter into legitimate political negotiations on the basis of Mali’s territorial integrity.” There is significant fear of what may lie ahead should the chaos and hunger continue to proliferate in Mali and throughout the region.

The World Food Programme says it is feeding over 200,000 refugees in the surrounding countries. This includes Mauritania which is hosting over 100,000 refugees while struggling with its own hunger crisis.

The charity Save the Children is urging support for the refugees to prevent malnutrition in the camps. The children need food aid and also psychological and educational support to help them deal with the trauma.

Nutrition for Small Children Critical

Nutritional support for the smallest children is crucial in this crisis The lack of food for children under five years of age causes severe and irreversible physical and mental damage. Surveys being conducted right now by aid workers show high acute malnutrition rates in Senegal, Chad, Niger, and Mauritania.

Save the Children says that throughout the Sahel over one million children are at risk of severe malnutrition. A special food called Plumpy’Nut can save the children from the lifetime damage of malnutrition. Save the Children estimates that 1.5 million cartons of Plumpy’Nut are needed in the Sahel but funding is the issue. Aid agencies are voluntarily funded.

School Feeding to Help Communities

Providing food for children at school is a way to boost recovery for entire communities. The food offers an incentive for parents to send children back to school so it accomplishes both nutritional and educational objectives.

The World Food Programme hopes to resume school meals in the coming weeks in several Sahel nations. But will the funding and food supplies be there to allow these important programs to be carried out? In Mauritania, WFP is reporting a slight delay in its school feeding program due to food supply difficulties.

WFP is planning a major expansion of its school feeding in Mali. Aboubacar Guindo of WFP says the expansion will mean doubling the number of students it feeds in the Southern part of the country. He adds that the funding has yet to be secured.

Funding a Key Issue

Aid agencies need support from both governments and the public. What could be more devastating than not enough resources being dedicated to saving lives? WFP reports “a funding shortfall of US$ 300 million” for the region. Also a special operation for logistics in Mauritania remains completely underfunded, which could harm the delivery of aid.

WFP provides not only food but also logistical and technological support to improved aid delivery. The WFP Emergency Telecommunications cluster, for instance, has developed a radio system which will be implemented in Northern Mali to help improve coordination for the relief effort.

Recovery from one major drought is difficult enough. In the Sahel there have been a succession of droughts and the low resistance levels of the communities involved is a major reason for the crisis. Aid agencies are trying to find a way to provide emergency aid but also plant the seed for future food security.

Relief Funds for the Sahel Food Crisis:

Sahel Food Crisis Fund – World Food Programme

Mali Hunger Crisis Fund – Save the Children

West Africa/ Sahel Hunger Crisis Fund – Save the Children

Sahel Food Crisis Fund – Catholic Relief Services

Article first published as Hunger and Fear in the Sahel of Africa on Blogcritics

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Charities Low on Funding to Help Suffering Children in Mali


Drought and conflict have caused massive displacement in Mali as families search for pasture. (photo courtesy WFP/ Daouda Guirou)

UNICEF says it’s only received 28 percent of its 58 million dollar emergency appeal to help conflict-torn Mali. The charity is providing nutrition, water, vaccinations and medicine to children suffering from the conflict and poverty.

A coup followed by a rebellion in Northern Mali has caused hunger and displacement for many thousands of families. Drought has also struck throughout Mali intensifying hunger and poverty.

UNICEF states, “Across the northern part of Mali, the global malnutrition rate is among the highest in the country. Schools have been closed for much of the year. Tens of thousands of families have been uprooted from their homes and exposed to violence and distress. Cholera has surfaced along the Niger River. Community coping mechanisms are being stretched to the extreme and risk failure, with negative consequences for children and women.”

The chaos has also placed children at risk of recruitment into rebel forces. UNICEF says it “calls on all parties to the conflict, leaders and community members to ensure that children are protected from the harmful impact of armed conflict and do not participate in hostilities.”

Families in Mali normally rely on stocks of food to help them through the summer lean season between harvests. These stocks would come from previous harvests. The drought though has meant far less food reserves to draw upon. Some reports show that families are resorting to eating cooked leaves. When drought hits families who are already living in poverty the impact is devastating.

Save the Children is working to rescue the most vulnerable in this hunger crisis. The charity is facing low funding having not achieved 50 percent of the fundraising goal for Mali.

Meanwhile the peak of the “lean season” is here with farmers and their families struggling to get food. Katie Seaborne, a Save the Children officer in Mali says, “I met with a woman called Mamou Traore in Diema of Kayes region in Southern Mali just on Thursday who explained how her husband’s crops lasted just one month. They have been trying to eke out a living ever since. Her four month old baby girl, Aissaita is now malnourished.”

Save the Children is supporting health centres which are treating these malnutrition cases including Aissaita. Without funding it will be difficult for Save the Children to carry on this work.

To donate to Save the Children visit their West Africa Hunger Crisis Fund.

For more information on UNICEF in Mali visit their web site.

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Families in Mali Running Out of Food

An archive picture of a little girl receiving food assistance at one of the WFP projects around the city of Timbuktu in northern Mali. (WFP/Shannon Hayes)

Families in Mali are running out of food with some reportedly eating meals “only made of cooked leaves” according to the UN World Food Programme. Mali, located in West Africa’s Sahel region, is one of the countries caught in a severe food crisis.

The World Food Programme (WFP) says there are 4.6 million people at risk of hunger in Mali. Drought has struck the country but so too has internal strife with a military coup earlier this year followed by increased rebellion in the Northern part of the country.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says, “Mali was, by most indicators, on the right path until a cadre of soldiers seized power a little more than a month before national elections were scheduled to be held. By some estimates, this could set back Mali’s economic progress by nearly a decade. It certainly created a vacuum in the North in which rebellion and extremism have spread, threatening not only people’s lives and the treasures of the past, but the stability of the region.”

The conflict has displaced 174,000 people within Mali and they need humanitarian aid. Even more Malians have been displaced to neighboring countries including Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres says, “We have now 257,000 refugees from Mali who are going through an enormous level of suffering and deprivation. They had to cross the borders of very poor countries that have very dramatic food security problems: Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.”

WFP says it needs 55 million dollars to fund its relief work for those displaced inside Mali and the surrounding countries.

Within Mali, WFP has reached over 100,000 children with nutritional help including the food Plumpy’Sup. This peanut paste keeps small children from suffering devastating physical and mental damage from malnutrition.

Katie Seaborne of Save the Children says the charity is providing nutritional support in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, where child malnutrition rates have increased this year, Save the Children is using both Plumpy’Sup and Plumpy’Nut, the latter generally used to treat the most severe cases of malnutrition.

Throughout the entire Sahel region of Africa, WFP is reporting a shortage of $320 million dollars in funding to provide food aid.

Where you can donate to hunger relief in the Sahel:

Sahel Food Crisis Fund- World Food Programme

Mali Hunger Crisis Fund- Save the Children

West Africa/ Sahel Hunger Crisis Fund- Save the Children

Sahel Food Crisis Fund- Catholic Relief Services

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Mauritania: School Meals, Refugee Aid Lack Funding

WFP is providing aid to refugees who fled the conflict in Mali and have been arriving daily in Mauritania and other neighboring countries including Niger.WFP though is facing a funding shortage for its refugee relief mission.
Photo credit: WFP/Alan Mouton

As the hunger crisis deepens in eight countries of the Sahel region of Africa, humanitarian aid should be increasing. This is not the case though in parts of the drought-stricken area.

In Mauritania school meals for children have been reduced by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) due to low funding. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations.

WFP’s March distribution of food to schools in Mauritania was supposed to provide 54 days of meals to the students. With the low funding WFP had to reduce the number of days children could receive meals from 54 to 40.

WFP runs the school feeding for around 150,000 students in nine rural areas where there is malnutrition and poverty. The meals are meant to keep the children in school especially at a time when drought and high prices have made it much harder for families to get food. WFP has struggled to find funding for the school meals program, leaving it constantly vulnerable to reduced rations.

No summer feeding program is available for the school children at present. So these children and their families will be headed into the peak period of the Sahel hunger crisis with one less source of food.

A program of summer take-home rations would provide a much-needed safety net for the 150,000 students, plus their families. This would be a crucial addition to ongoing WFP relief operations such as the provision of plumpy’sup, a special food to help combat potentially life threatening malnutrition in infants.

One of the areas in Mauritania where WFP provides school meals is called Hodh ech Chargui. There are 120,000 Mauritanians in this area, 37 percent of the population, who suffer from hunger.

The severe drought conditions is hard enough to cope with. There are even more challenges. Hodh ech Chargui is also hosting more than 63,000 refugees from a conflict in the neighboring country of Mali. WFP is facing an 86 percent shortage of funds to feed these refugees.

Mauritania, and other neighboring countries, are seeing a daily influx of refugees from Mali. The UN World Food Programme’s director Ertharin Cousin, who just visited the Sahel region, said she met a refugee who said, “everybody wants to leave Mali.” The stream of refugees from Mali is expected to continue. The funding for humanitarian aid has to start flowing more rapidly too.

The international community has to act now to fund all relief operations and be prepared for an increasing number of refugees. If the world acts now, it can help prevent a famine in the Sahel this summer.

Article first published as Mauritania: School Meals, Refugee Aid Lack Funding on Blogcritics.

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Sahel Food Crisis: An Interview with Aboubacar Guindo of WFP in Mali

A field of withered crops in the Mali’s Kayes region. Drought has ruined food supplies in the Sahel region of Africa, which includes the countries of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal, and Chad. (WFP/Daouda Guirou)

Almost nine million people urgently need food assistance in the Sahel region of Africa following a severe drought. And time is running out to prevent a massive humanitarian disaster.

Josette Sheeran, the director of UN World Food Programme, says, “The needs of the millions affected by drought in the Sahel are enormous, and the time to act is now.”

Mali is one of the countries caught in the crisis. Mali is not only contending with drought but also conflict in the North between a rebel group and the government. The fighting is creating additional displacement and hunger.

WFP runs school feeding in Mali to save children from hunger and malnutrition and keep them in class. But will there be enough support to keep the program going during this food crisis? WFP depends on voluntary donations to fight hunger around the globe.

Aboubacar S. Guindo, a WFP school feeding officer, talks about where Mali’s program stands now as we head into critical months of this hunger emergency.

How many children are receiving WFP school meals in Mali? Is this a breakfast or lunch ration?

Actually, we are feeding 156,666 kids in 729 schools in the country. They do receive hot meals generally served at midday. In addition to that, the Government undertook under the national budget to cover an additional 651 schools (117.000 children) who are also benefiting from hot meals.

Are these schools in the areas affected by the drought conditions?

Yes, most of the schools are based in the area affected by the drought that results in communities’ increasing vulnerability. The government through the Early Warning System identified 159 communities that are the most affected by this crisis. To respond to this, WFP elaborated an Emergency Operation (EMOP) with a School Feeding component to avoid important drop-outs that schools used to face in this type of crisis. The EMOP will also include nutrition, food for work, and cash components.

In the affected communes all the assisted schools from both government and WFP programs will receive a complimentary meal made of enriched cereals (supercereal) as breakfast. We are planning to assist 150,000 kids under this initiative.

Does WFP intend to expand the program?

For now, the extension WFP will do concerns the coverage of the schools affected by the drought. We are more likely to reinforce government abilities to develop and implement a National SF programme.

Does WFP have enough resources to continue providing the school meals?

Funding is the biggest challenge. We have been obliged last year to reduce the numbers of meals in the northern region due to reductions in funding. In addition to food insecurity, WFP is assessing the needs of the internally displaced due to conflict in the north. This assessment may show in an increase in needs.

We hope to have more contributions from local and international donors in order to continue to provide our support to communities as well as the government so that hunger does no longer constitutes a barrier to the education of any children in Mali.

For more information please visit the World Food Programme.

Article first published as Sahel Food Crisis: An Interview with Aboubacar Guindo of WFP in Mali on Blogcritics.

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