WFP Delivers Food To People Trapped In Northern Mali
Published on 10 July 2012

Issa Samake, a WFP contracted driver, delivered food to Timbuktu in the conflict-affected north. WFP / Daouda Guirou

The political unrest and widespread insecurity have made the northern regions of Mali inaccessible to major UN humanitarian organizations. However, WFP has been exploring all possible ways and transportation channels, partnering with various NGOs, to try to deliver food to vulnerable populations.


MOPTI - Working with its partners, WFP has delivered food and nutritional commodities to more than 50,000 conflict-affected people in Mali’s northern cities of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.  Deliveries to these northern areas are ongoing through NGO partners.

WFP has signed, or is in the process of finalizing, field operational agreements with eight NGOs and has so far contributed food to three NGO-organized convoys.

“The first time I drove to Timbuktu was with the Islamic High Council convoy.  I am so grateful we didn’t run into any trouble,” said Issa Samake, a WFP contracted truck driver.  “People in Timbuktu are in desperate need of food.  We work quickly so that distributions can happen on the same day that we arrive.”

Since March the northern regions of Mali have been under the control of anti-government armed groups.  The situation of the population trapped over there is dire.  The arrival of food is a cause for celebration.

The majority of WFP’s food assistance is delivered to vulnerable populations by road. But the political situation has left many roads impassable or unsafe.  These accessibility challenges are being compounded by the lean season, which reaches its peak from July to September.

WFP logistics operations are implementing creative solutions to circumvent the ongoing unrest and deliver much needed food assistance to drought-affected regions in the north of the country.

Through convoys organized by NGOs, WFP is able to use waterways as an avenue to deliver food.

Boats, called “pinasses,” can load up to 20 metric tons of food and offer an alternative means of transporting food by river to areas otherwise inaccessible by road.  Following the Niger River, pinasses spend between 4 and 5 days to cover the 400km distance between Mopti, in central Mali, and Timbuktu. 

Recurring droughts have taken a toll on the fish population, which has in turn had debilitating consequences for fishermen’s livelihoods.  Most pinasses are not in use and remain docked due to lack of fish in the river. 

Handicap International, an NGO, organized the first deliveries of food commodities through pinasses on 27 June, leaving from Mopti port and heading in the direction of Timbuktu. Use of the waterways for delivering food assistance to communities located along the Niger River is likely to continue throughout the rainy season.

In February WFP launched an Emergency Operation to provide food assistance to drought-affected populations. WFP has also been providing assistance to people displaced by the conflict within Mali and into neighboring Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger.

To date WFP has provided assistance to 6,600 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mopti and Segou, and is preparing further interventions in these two regions as well as in Sikasso and Kayes.



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About the author

Daouda Guirou

Communication and Report Assistant

Daouda Guirou works as a Communication Officer in Bangui, Central African Republic.