BAMAKO, Mali- Even a year after Islamist militants were removed from northern Mali by French forces, crisis spurned by drought and conflict still weigh heavy in the immense country located at the center of the Sahel region. With nearly 69 percent of the country’s population currently living below the national poverty line, Mali ranks 182 out of 187 countries according to the 2011 United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index. A tumultuous 2012 rocked the country as it was hit by severe drought which led to a food and nutrition crisis causing three out of four households in some northern regions to become moderately to severely food insecure. Some families are to have said to be spending nearly 90 percent of their income on food alone according to the World Food Programme.
Health concerns are becoming a grave issue as hunger levels are already higher than last year and malnutrition rates have reached emergency proportions in places such as Gao Town, Bourem, and Ansongo. It is estimated that 200,000 children are currently suffering from acute malnutrition while 1.3 million Malians are food insecure and depend on food assistance. Because of the government’s instability and lack of proper infrastructure, their capacity to help has thus far been limited. This lack of food access has also opened opportunities for thieves as it has been reported some people are fleeing their homes into safer areas where intruders can no longer loot their limited resources.
In response to the food crisis, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has announced it will contribute $500,000 of food assistance within the next couple of weeks to support internally displaced populations affected by the ongoing security crisis. The ECOWAS donated $3 million to Mali in April 2012 and contributed $1.5 million to Burkina Faso and Niger to provide support for affected Malians and refugees. The acting head of the U.N. office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has also pledged his organizations support and ongoing participation to the ECOWAS.
Combatting unsanitary water conditions is the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors who on November 21 approved an International Development Association (IDA) credit for $80 million to increase and improve water supply access for those living in the capital city of Bamako. Matar Fall, lead Water and Sanitation Specialist commented on the positive effects of what is being coined, The Kabala Project, “The number of direct project beneficiaries is estimated at 610,000 people. 390,000 additional people would get access to improved water sources through household connections and stand posts and 220,000 people -already connected to the existing water networks but facing low water pressure and intermittent service- would benefit from an enhanced (24/7) water service.”
With combined efforts from UN led organizations including Action Against Hunger and UNICEF, programs and surveys are being conducted and instilled in the region to combat fallout from the 2011-2012 drought and violence-related intrusions. While there is a lot of room for improvement in the region in terms of providing adequate resources for the population, organizations are again spotlighting the ongoing crisis in Mali.
– Jeffrey Scott Haley