- West Africa
Niger-Mali: ICRC to assist over 100,000 victims of violence and economic hardship
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is launching extensive assistance programmes for more than 100,000 people affected by adverse weather conditions and violence in northern Niger and Mali. They are among millions of people, mainly farmers and herders, hit hard by poor rains and economic hardship. Continuing communal violence in some areas has added to the strain.
The situation is particularly dire in the Ansongo and Menaka areas of northern Mali, and in north-western Niger, especially in the Ouallam and Fillingué departments. In northern Mali, government statistics indicate that more than a quarter of a million people in Gao and Kidal are experiencing food insecurity. In Niger, the government estimates that over half of the entire country’s population is suffering from moderate to severe food insecurity ? about eight million people in all.
"Rainfall in 2009 was irregular and approximately 70 per cent below the annual average. Because of the weather conditions and the difficulty of moving about amid the violence, the harvest was poor and people have been running out of food, while cattle don’t have enough pasture," said Nicolai Panke, who heads the ICRC’s operations in Mali and Niger. He added that sporadic communal violence had forced thousands of people in some areas to leave their homes and join the ranks of the internally displaced (IDPs).
The ICRC is asking donors for an additional 23 million Swiss francs over the initially planned budget for 2010 of nearly 13 million francs. The additional funding will almost triple the annual budget by bringing it to some 36 million francs.
The ICRC plans to provide food for almost 85,000 people for up to eight months, and seed, tools, training and other support for over 40,000 people to help them resume farming. In addition, it will buy 22,000 head of livestock at pre-crisis prices from some 45,000 nomadic herders, thus cutting down their herds and enabling them to preserve the lives of the remaining livestock, while at the same time helping to stabilize prices by injecting cash into the local economy. Furthermore, the meat of the slaughtered cattle will be distributed to needy people in local communities.
Although fighting between government forces and armed opposition groups in northern Niger and Mali subsided last year, areas such as Ansongo in Mali and Tillabéry in Niger experienced an upturn in communal violence, forcing thousands of people to temporarily leave their homes. "We will not only help internally displaced people who lost all their belongings but also vulnerable residents and returnees, since they too have been hard hit by the crisis," said Mr Panke.
The ICRC is one of only a very few international humanitarian organizations operating in northern Niger and Mali. It works closely with the Red Cross societies of both countries and coordinates its activities with the authorities dealing with the food crisis.
The ICRC opened its Niamey regional delegation earlier this year to respond to the need for humanitarian aid arising from fighting between government forces and various armed groups in Niger and Mali. Its delegates visit detainees to monitor the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive. The regional delegation also promotes awareness of international humanitarian law among the armed forces and armed groups, and provides support for the Red Cross Society of Niger and the Mali Red Cross.
Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)