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Press Releases & Updates

22 MAR 2013

Northern Mali: alarming humanitarian situation following months of hardship

A serious food security crisis is developing in the Gao region of northern Mali due to a shortage of cereals on the market, rocketing food prices and restricted access, warns international agency Oxfam.

In a recent survey conducted between January and February 2013 in the circle of Bourem, an area in the Gao region where Oxfam carries out programmes, the agency found that up to 80 per cent of adults have reduced their daily food intake in order to allow their children to eat at least twice a day. They have also had to reduce their daily food rations or share the food they received with neighbours or family members.

A separate market survey in the same area revealed that in January 2013, the price of basic foodstuffs went up by as much as 70 per cent as a result of the military operation. By February, these abnormally high prices, far greater than the five year average, had still not stabilised. Oxfam‘s survey found that cereals like sorghum, millet and corn are no longer available on the market. While the availability of certain cereals is now improving, the continued closure of the Algerian border is preventing access to other key products in the diet of northern Malians, such as pasta, oil, sugar and rice.

Fuel shortages and rising fuels prices and conflict-related damage have also affected the water and electricity supply in the town of Gao.

Military interventions carried out since the beginning of the year have led to road closures and the departure of traders, who have still not returned to the area. Furthermore, a large number of small traders, many of whom are women, lost their goods and cash in a fire in the Gao vegetable market during fighting in February. This trade was essential to allow the poorest households to buy food in the small quantities they were able to afford.

”In Gao, prices have increased dramatically; price of local rice has gone up by more than 50 per cent since October last year. This is having a dramatic effect on the population. The banking system is completely disrupted and the population has very little cash available. They will find it difficult to meet their immediate needs if the situation doesn’t improve”, said Philippe Conraud, Oxfam Country Director in Mali.

Oxfam is calling on the humanitarian community and donors to mobilise and provide rapid assistance to those most in need. As of 15 March 2013, the UN’s emergency appeal for Mali had only received US$56 million, just 17 per cent of the total US$386 million requested.

Oxfam is concerned that an overwhelming focus on the military intervention and operations is overshadowing urgent humanitarian and protection needs and calls on donors to step up their funding for key sectors such as food security, water, sanitation, protection, education, health and sustainable livelihoods.

Oxfam needs more than US$9 million for 2013 to be able to implement its humanitarian programmes in both the Gao and Segou regions for the next six months. Certain donors such as the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Agency (ECHO) have already provided significant support.

Oxfam is aiming to reach 70,000 people via support to livelihoods and food distributions. The latest food distribution was completed at the beginning of March.

About Oxfam

Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local, national and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 94 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.