The EU’s development chief told a meeting of aid ministers this week that a roadmap to restore democracy and stability was now recognised by the EU. With this roadmap, Mali hopes to hold new elections at the end of July this year.
In the meanwhile, the EU has funded more than 110 million euros worth of humanitarian aid to Mali since the start of 2012. This has mostly been used to provide food and shelter to families displaced by the conflict in the north. Many thousands of refugees fled to neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, putting enormous pressure on nations already struggling to rebuild food security after the severe famine experienced across the Sahel region. A further 10,000 Malians are estimated to have moved internally to the capital or to south and central regions of Mali.
Conditions in parts of northern Mali are said to be extremely tough, with many regions going without any outside assistance for almost twelve months. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reported that it will be sending an aid convey to the north of the country in the coming week. Speaking to the news agency IRIN, a spokesperson for the ICRC said that humanitarian organisations were doing their best “with limited funds, but there are always more needs”, adding that health services in the north were particularly lacking.
Agencies are expecting to treat many cases of malnutrition and disease when health workers regain access to medical centres, especially in rural communities which were already suffering from shortages and drought before the conflict in northern Mali began. And the situation is likely to have worsened significantly with fields and farms going uncultivated. Food prices have also risen drastically and some local markets are out of supplies. The World Food Programme now plans to triple the amount of food being sent to the north and open up a transport route between Niamey (the capital of neighbouring Niger) and Gao.
However, access to needy communities in Mali has already improved. And in the south and centre, a wide range of agencies are working to help refugees. SOS Children are one of the organisations supporting displaced families.