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ACT Alliance Alert: Conflict and Displacement in Mali

ACT Alliance - Switzerland - Fri, 25 Jan 2013 14:09 GMT
Author: Elisabeth Gouel
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Conflict and Displacement in Mali

Geneva, 25 January 2013

1.         Brief description of the emergency and impact

Following a military coup d’état in Mali in March 2012, a combination of the separatist Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Islamic jihadist Ansar Dine captured all of the northern Malian regions of Tombouctou, Gao and Kidal. Large numbers of civilians fled to the Malian southern regions and to the capital, Bamako, as well as across the borders into neighbouring countries. Most organizations working on relief and development (including ACT Alliance members) had to abandon, at least temporarily, their operations in the north; later they resumed assistance in a restricted way to people that had moved southwards.

On 11 January 2013, France launched a military intervention to assist Malian government forces to fight off the Islamist groups after they moved south and seized the town of Konna, as well as to stop their southward advance. The French have continued the air strikes, extending the campaign to Diabali, Lere, Gao and Douentza; as well as preventing their advance southward.

2.         Why is an ACT response needed?

The hostilities are creating large-scale displacement. As of 14 January 2013, the Commission Mouvement des Populations reported that an estimated 228,918 people had been internally displaced. This figure demonstrates an approximately 15.2% increase over the Commission’s last number on internally displaced people of 198,558 in November 2012. Nearly 375,000 Malians fled the conflict in the north in 2012. Over 145,000, the majority of them women and children, sought refuge in poor areas of neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. More continue to come since the fighting escalated in January 2013. Refugees are living among populations that are themselves struggling to get by in the face of poverty, food insecurity and limited access to basic social services. Impoverished host communities, still recovering from a region-wide food crisis in 2012, now have to share already scarce food and water. At some sites across the borders, refugees outnumber the host population. In Mali itself, most of the estimated 229,000 people considered internally displaced are living in extremely overcrowded, difficult conditions in urban centres or rented houses, relying primarily on relatives for support. Men, women and children who remain in northern Mali are exposed to violence and serious violations of their human rights, and have limited access to humanitarian assistance. The humanitarian response has met some, but far from all, of the displaced people’s vital needs. Water, food, shelter and medical care are needed immediately.

3.         National and international response

On 10 January 2013, the day the Islamists captured Konna, Mali’s Interim President Dioncounda Traore requested military assistance from France to enable Malian forces to confront the rebels. On the same day, the United Nations called for the rapid deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), which has been mandated to assist state forces to retake the north. On 11 January, President Traore declared a state of emergency in the whole of Mali for an initial period of 10 days, which was later extended to three months. Also on 11 January, the President of Cote d’Ivoire and head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Alassane Ouattara, authorised the immediate deployment of ECOWAS troops to assist Malian government forces in defending the country’s territorial integrity.

With few prospects for peace in Mali in the short term, the presence of internally displaced people and refugees in neighbouring countries is likely to be protracted. Supporting refugees’ long-term livelihoods to increase their self-reliance and reduce the pressure on host populations is critical.

4.         ACT Alliance response

With the support of the ACT security coordinator, the ACT Forum in Mali has developed a security plan for the forum enabling members to take quick and adequate actions in turbulent times. As foreseen in the plan, the ACT members had already several meetings in Mali to address staff safety and security issues. Members of the ACT forum in Mali are ICCO & Kerk in Actie, Christian Aid, Norwegian Church Aid, Diakonia Sweden and Lutheran World Relief. Most programmes of these members have been disrupted and shifted to respond to the immediate needs of the conflict affected people. Since August 2012, ACT Mali members proposed an emergency plan jointly with other NGOs through the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), which was poorly funded. The ACT members’ long-term work in Mali involves:

  • rebuilding trust between communities;
  • encouraging more inclusive politics and equitable development across the country; and
  • ensuring effective participation in peace-building and reconciliation processes, which includes women, refugees and marginalised communities.

5.         Planned activities

The immediate humanitarian response activities will be coordinated with local authorities, NGOs and UNOCHA. The Forum in Mali is planning to provide support to 50,000 internally displaced people made up of displaced families, school children and malnourished children living with host families. An estimated amount of 1.2 million Euro will be needed and a preliminary appeal will be sent to the ACT secretariat by the end of January.


Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jean-Daniel Birmele, ACT Director of Finance (

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