Mali: Food Aid Is Lifeline For Family Uprooted By Violence

As the fighting escalates in Mali, thousands of people forced from their homes are struggling to survive in other parts of the country. Aissata Walet is one of them. Forced to rent a hut in Bamako which she shares with 30 other people, Aissata say she doesn’t know how she’d feed her children without assistance from WFP.

BAMAK0—When fighting broke out in northern Mali last spring, Aissata Walet fled with her children to the capital of Bamako. They’ve been there ever since, sharing a two-room hut with 30 of her relatives. There’s not a space on the ground for everyone, so at night, her children sleep on the roof.

“When it rains, they take shelter in the staircase. They put their pillows against the wall and sleep,” she says. Aissata, 43, is among tens of thousands of northern Malians who’ve come south in search of refuge.

Many were welcomed by host families who took them in and gave them a place to stay. But others like Aissata had to fend for themselves. “I had to rent a house and pay school fees for my children. I have to pay for everything here,” she says. 

One of the few things she doesn’t have to pay for is the ration of flour, oil, sugar and beans she receives each month from WFP. “Without it, I’d be begging on the streets,” she says.

Life away from home

Aissata is from Gao, a city on the front lines of a conflict which has driven more than 480,000 people from their homes since April 2012. Far from home and without a job, she has no way to provide for her family. 

“Two of my children haven’t been to school in over a week, because they caught a bad cough and I can’t afford medicine,” she says. An increasing number of families from the north are finding themselves in the same situation as the violence intensifies.

Military clashes in January sparked a new wave of displacement, sending nearly 10,000 people to towns near the front lines like Mopti and Segou. As the fighting approached, WFP was temporarily forced to suspend its operations in the area. They resumed just a few days later for more than 58,000 people uprooted from their homes.

Volatile situation

Families who have stayed behind in northern Mali are more difficult to reach, though WFP has succeeded in dispatching food to areas like Timbuktu and Gao by sending flat boats up the Niger River.

While it’s still impossible to conduct assessment in the northern part of the country, reports from places like Mopti indicate that as many as 70 per cent of families there are struggling to provide for themselves.

“WFP will continue to monitor the situation closely and to explore alternative options for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, such as cross-border operations to the north of Mali through Niger and pre-positioning of food in Mauritania and Burkina Faso,” said WFP Mali Country Director Zlatan Milisic.

Overall, WFP currently aims to reach more than 564,000 people affected by the conflict in Mali and neighbouring countries.