LOS ANGELES, CA, January 23, 2013 – International Medical Corps has sent an emergency response team to Mali and Mauritania to assess humanitarian needs resulting from intensifying conflict between armed rebels and the government in Mali. An estimated 4.2 million Malians are in need of humanitarian assistance, facing widespread displacement and high levels of hunger. At least 9,661 Malians have been newly displaced since January 10, and the United Nations has warned that 700,000 Malians could be displaced by fighting in the coming months.
On January 10, armed Islamist groups controlling northern Mali began moving south and took over the city of Konna, triggering intervention by the French army. Some 1,800 French troops poured into Mali as the French army carried out airstrikes to take back control of Konna. Meantime, French special forces and Malian government troops launched a ground operation to take back the town of Diabaly—seized by Islamist fighters last week—which is located about 250 miles from Mali’s capital, Bamako. Several Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) nations have also deployed forces in support of the French and Malian army in recent days.
Rebel groups in northern Mali have staged uprisings against the government since the early 1990s. In March 2012, President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted in a coup, effectively splitting the country in two, with well-armed Islamists controlling the three northern regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. Violence in 2012 caused more than 460,000 people to flee their homes, many of them fleeing across the border into Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso. The United Nations estimates that more than 3,599 have been internally displaced since January 10, adding to the 228,920 already displaced. Approximately 6,062 new Malian refugees have crossed the border since January 10, adding to the 147,000 Malian refugees already living in neighboring states.
Sanitation, shelter, health and food security conditions have deteriorated significantly over the past nine months, creating a humanitarian situation that will likely worsen as intensified violence displaces additional civilians. Before January 10, more than 2 million people were at risk of food insecurity and 666,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition. Due to the inadequate water and sanitation conditions in the country, about 1.5 million people are at risk of epidemics. The majority of humanitarian needs are in the south, where health services and schools have been overwhelmed by the influx of northerners. Meanwhile, most schools are closed in the north, where children remain at risk of recruitment by rebels, violence, sexual abuse and exploitation.
On January 22, International Medical Corps deployed an emergency assessment team to Bamako, Mali to assess the humanitarian needs of internally displaced persons in Mali and Malian refugees that have crossed the border into Hoch Ech Chargi, Mauritania. The emergency team will be working with other local and international organizations to identify critical unmet needs among the displaced in Mauritania and the affected regions of Mali, which include: Bamako, Mopti, Ségou and Timbuktu. International Medical Corps anticipates needs for services in health, nutrition, water supply, sanitation and hygiene, mental health and psychosocial support, and protection for affected Malians in Mali and Mauritania.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps’ mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster, and disease, by delivering vital health care services and sustainable development projects that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance. For more information visit: www.InternationalMedicalCorps.org. Also see us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.