Mali is a vast landlocked country at the heart of the Sahel region. Mali's social indicators remain among the lowest in the world and the country is ranked 175 out of 187 countries on the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index. Sixty-nine percent of the population lives below the national poverty line, and more than one fifth of school-aged children do not attend school, three quarters of whom are girls according to the 2010 National Annual Statistics.
2012 was a challenging year for Mali. In early 2012, the country was hit by a food and nutrition crisis caused by a severe drought in 2011 and consequent slashed agricultural production. At the same time the first clashes with rebels took place in the northern regions. The subsequent political coup in Bamako on 22 March 2012 caused increased political, security, and economic destabilization which favoured the occupation of some two-thirds of the country (Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal and parts of Mopti regions) by non-state armed groups early April 2012.
These events have heightened levels of vulnerability in the country and forced thousands of people to flee to safer areas in the country as well as in neighbouring countries. Throughout the year, the transitional government, established in April, has been trying to respond to this multifaceted crisis of drought combined with the occupation of the North. Pending the re-establishment of a legitimate and democratic government, most technical and financial partners have suspended or reduced their budgetary support to the Government, including support to planned Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) activities.
The joint WFP/SAP emergency food security assessment (EFSA) conducted from August to September 2012 indicated a reduction of income and purchasing power across all sectors and livelihoods, low food consumption scores, and increasing dependency on negative coping mechanisms. The following three northern regions had the highest levels of food insecurity: Kidal (45 percent of the population estimated to be severely or moderately food-insecure), Gao (36 percent), Timbuktu (31 percent) and the occupied parts of Mopti (27.3 percent). IDPs and host families in these regions have a high food consumption gap and have lost most of their livelihood means.
The prevalence of food insecurity in the South was indicated as lower, reaching up to 12.9 percent (Koulikoro). Furthermore, the widespread displacement and prolonged tension on resources of hosting communities has eroded populations' capacity to face recurring shocks. The final Nutrition SMART survey results, of September 2012, were released. The survey, covering only the Southern part of the country, shows that 8.9 percent of children 6-59 months are acute malnourished, 29.1 percent stunted and 20.0 percent underweight. In northern Mali, the joint WFP/Early Warning System Emergency Food Security Assessment conducted in August-September 2012 indicated a reduction of income and purchasing power across all sectors and livelihoods, low food consumption scores and increasing dependency on negative coping mechanisms.
During regular, non crisis-affected years, in Mali, the CFSVA findings showed that, in July 2007, during the lean period, 11 percent of households were severely food insecure, 17 percent moderately food insecure. In March 2008, during the pre-welding, 8 percent of households were found to be severely food insecure, and 18 percent moderately food insecure. Overall, urban households proved less food insecure. The proportion of households experiencing severe food insecurity was higher in Kidal (41 percent) and Timbuktu (19 percent) during welding. In post-harvest period, this proportion is higher in the regions of Gao (20 percent) and Sikasso (17 percent).