Renewed violence in northern Mali is causing mass displacements within the region of Timbuktu. About 60,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and find shelter in the region over the past few weeks, and more than 700 people have crossed the borders into neighboring countries. The World Food Programme (WFP) has stepped up its response to provide food to the newly displaced despite having limited resources.
A surge in violence in northern Mali during the second half of May has left entire villages empty, and their inhabitants homeless as they escaped in search of peace. The numbers have been increasing with each passing day. As of 31 May, the count reached about 60,000 internally displaced people, the vast majority of which have taken refuge around the towns of Goundam and Tonka, in the Timbuktu region. The newly-displaced join the ranks of over 43,000 internally displaced people throughout the country who have not yet returned to their homes since the conflict erupted in 2012, bringing the total number of those displaced within Mali to over 100,000.
The luckiest are staying with host families, though these families are often also struggling to feed themselves with the onset of the lean season. Others have settled in makeshift shelters or are in the open, a situation that has led to urgent need for water, food, and shelter.
WFP has stepped up, assessing needs, and shipping and distributing food. To get food to those who need it the most, WFP uses any means possible, including barges.
Together with its partners, on 23 May, WFP distributed 13 metric tons of cereal bars to 9,100 of the newly displaced, in an effort to provide short-term relief as it worked to transport food rations to the area. In the following days, WFP was able to start distributing one month’s worth of food rations to approximately 29,000 people.
WFP and partners are carrying out assessments to have a better understanding of the needs in the regions of Gao, Mopti and Timbuktu, and we aim to increase our assistance as needed.
"The current state of affairs is only adding to an already difficult situation as over three million people struggle to have enough food to eat, and host communities brace themselves to face a harsh lean season. If the situation continues to deteriorate, we expect more people to be in need of life-saving food assistance," said Sally Haydock, WFP Mali Country Director.
WFP is able to support the newly displaced with the emergency aid thanks to the support of ECHO, USA, Japan, Canada, France, Switzerland. In 2015, WFP overall aims to support 1.2 million people in Mali - providing emergency relief and additional support for communities emerging from crisis.
To date, less than half of WFP's funding needs are met. WFP urgently requires an additional US$64 million to continue to meet growing needs.
Text by: Irshad Khan/WFP. Photos courtesy of WFP partner Africare and WFP/Daouda Guirou (for second photo).