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ReliefWeb - Updates

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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali, Mauritania

    02/05/2013 16:30 GMT

    NOUAKCHOTT, 05 fév 2013 (AFP) - Des réfugiés maliens en Mauritanie ont protesté lundi et mardi dans le camp de Mberré (Sud-Est) en brisant des barbelés en fer protégeant des magasins de vivres, pour dénoncer les conditions de distribution de la nourriture, a-t-on appris de sources concordantes.

    Des dizaines de réfugiés ont manifesté ces deux jours à Mberré autour de magasins stockant des vivres dont ils ont brisé les barbelés, rapporte mardi l'agence privée en ligne Alakhbar.

    Le camp de Mberré, proche de la frontière, accueille des milliers de réfugiés maliens, dont certains ont été chassés par les opérations militaires entamées le 11 janvier par l'armée française, appuyée par des troupes maliennes et africaines pour chasser du Nord du Mali les islamistes liés à Al-Qaïda.

    Les manifestants ont refusé de se mettre en file indienne pour recevoir des vivres. "Nous sommes pour une distribution de la nourriture à tous parce que nous n'avons rien en remplacement, mais cela doit se faire en respectant notre dignité", a affirmé l'un d'eux, cité par Alakhbar.

    "Une vieille (personne) est décédée et une femme a accouché dans le rang", a-t-il dit, sans plus de précisions, avant d'ajouter: "Il faut respecter nos coutumes, nos valeurs et notre dignité en nous (rendant) ce service dont nous avons grand besoin".

    Un représentant des réfugiés à Nouakchott, contacté par l'AFP, a estimé que ces heurts étaient "anodins" et qu'ils résultaient "de la surpopulation du camp et du retard pris pour les enregistrer et les servir en nourriture".

    "Ils (les réfugiés) sont très fatigués, généralement affamés et peuvent difficilement supporter tant de retards et de manquements", a-t-il précisé.

    Selon l'ONU, près de 18.000 Maliens ont trouvé refuge dans les pays de la région, principalement en Mauritanie et au Burkina Faso, depuis le début de l'intervention militaire française.

    Il y a au total près de 150.000 réfugiés maliens à l'étranger et 227.000 déplacés à l'intérieur du Mali, d'après les Nations unies.

    hos/mrb/dif

    © 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse


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    Source: Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e. V. (German Agro Action)
    Country: Mali

    Welthungerhilfe helps people to make a new start

    (04.02.2013) During the last few days, national Welthungerhilfe staff visited the villages in the Diabali region, which is home to approximately 44,000 people. The city of Diabali, around 400 km north of the capital city of Bamako, was the site of heavy fighting due to its strategic location. When they withdrew, the rebels destroyed rice fields, grain storage facilities and fields, and looted houses.

    The city of Diabali, around 400 km north of the capital city of Bamako, was the site of heavy fighting due to its strategic location. The region around Diabali has always been considered fertile, and its people were able to feed themselves prior to the fighting. Many families now receive support from their neighbours, who have very little food themselves. Until now, the region has not received any outside help.

    The population that is now returning to the region has run out of reserves and stocks. People are greatly dependent on aid to re-establish their livelihoods. For this reason, Welthungerhilfe is distributing basic rations of rice, beans, cooking oil, along with special food for small children, to 4,000 households to help people start a new life. This activity will provide aid to 24,000 people. Welthungerhilfe will also expand its aid activities to the Timbuktu region, as soon as this region becomes accessible to aid agencies.

    Welthungerhilfe has been supporting projects in Mali since 1968. Together with the local population, the organisation has supported projects in the area of sustainable food security, education and agricultural development. Welthungerhilfe has also continued to provide active emergency aid due to recurring political unrest and extreme climatic fluctuations.

    Many of the 14 million people in Mali are suffering from chronic undernourishment. The population must also deal with the effects of the 2012 drought in the Sahel. Welthungerhilfe offers support to those in need particularly in difficult times such as these.


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    Source: World Food Programme
    Country: Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Syrian Arab Republic, World
    preview


    This bulletin examines trends in staple food and fuel prices, the cost of the basic food basket, terms of trade and consumer price indices for 69 countries in the fourth quarter of 2012 (October to December, Q4-2012). This issue also highlights the impact of conflicts on food and fuel prices in two current hot-spot countries; Syria and Mali. In addition, Kyrgyzstan is featured, with a focus on the price transmission of the 2012 global summer heat and drought impacts.

    Highlights

    The global cereal price index increased by 12.8 percent in Q4-2012 on a year-on-year basis (October-December quarter). This upward trend was fuelled by global wheat and maize prices, which increased by 27 and 18 percent respectively during Q4-2012 compared to the same quarter of last year, while rice decreased by only 3 percent. In Q4-2012, global maize and wheat prices have stabilized at their highest values reached in the previous quarter, when major exporting countries were hit by the extreme summer heat and droughts. When prices are adjusted for changes in the US Consumer Price Index, the Q4-2012 global maize price is close to its peak of Q3-2012 and above the spike of 2008. The Q4-2012 global wheat price is 18% less than its peak level of Q1-2008, while the global rice price has eased significantly compared to previous years.


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    Source: Médecins du Monde, Solidarités International
    Country: Mali
    preview


    Lieu d’intervention: Tinzawaten Du 26 au 29 janvier 2013 Département: Multi départements

    Une mission conjointe comprenant une équipe de Solidarités International et une équipe de Médecins du Monde Belgique s’est rendue à Tinzawaten du 26 au 29 janvier 2013, pour procéder à un diagnostic rapide concernant la situation d’urgence dans laquelle se trouvent les populations déplacées sur le site. Tinzawaten est situé à 300 Km au nord-est de Kidal, à la frontière Algérienne.


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    Source: UN Children's Fund
    Country: Mali, Mauritania

    With a burgeoning number of refugees from conflict in northern Mali arriving in neighbouring Mauritania, the international community steps up its response for refugees and host communities.

    By Lucia Elmi and Brahim Ould Isselmou

    FASSALA, Mauritania, 5 February 2013 – As conflict rages in northern Mali, thousands of people caught up in the fighting are struggling to survive, trying to escape hardship and reach more secure areas. Many remain stranded.

    Others, like Alia, have escaped, a journey of fear, destination uncertain. One long week after she and her three young children had set out from Timbuktu to Fassala, Mauritania, the telltale contractions and cramps in Alia’s swollen belly marked early labour. As the first Fassala dwellings emerged from the desert mirages, Alia gave birth to her fourth child.

    Flight to neighbouring countries

    In the beginning of 2012, as the Sahel region grappled with nutrition crisis, rebellion erupted in northern Mali. In March, the rebellion had captured the three northern regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. The situation remained relatively calm until the end of 2012, when Islamist groups seized power from the secular rebel group Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA).

    On 20 December, the United Nations Security Council authorized an African force (AFISMA) to help Malian authorities, with an additional mandate to ensure security for humanitarian assistance and the voluntary return of displaced persons. Shortly after, rebel groups launched another offensive, capturing the town of Konna on 10 January. The Government of Mali subsequently requested immediate military assistance from France.

    As thousands of people flee the conflict, UNICEF, in coordination with UNHCR and other partners, has been working to accommodate those people who have crossed the country’s borders, the majority of whom are children and women.

    Safety in Mauritania

    According to UNHCR, up to 64,805 refugees, including more than 10,000 new arrivals, are receiving services in M’Berra camp, Mauritania. Children’s needs include food security, protection, nutrition, education, healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene and education.

    “We are stepping up and expanding our interventions to meet the growing humanitarian needs for refugee children and host communities in the aftermath of the military operation in North Mali,’’ says UNICEF Representative in Mauritania Lucia Elmi.

    When they arrived in Fassala, Alia and her family went to the health centre for medical screening and to receive measles vaccinations. The centre was set up by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs with support from UNHCR and Médecins sans Frontières, with vaccines and essential supplies procured by UNICEF.

    The family were then transported to the transit centre, where they enjoyed their first respite since their flight from Timbuktu. From there, they were moved to M’Berra camp, where they were integrated into the existing services and structure. After 12 months in the camp, Alia’s son Habibi stands strong, having fully recovered from severe acute malnutrition.

    At M’Berra camp, along with nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene services, children benefit from education and child friendly spaces, restoring the sense of normalcy.

    Incredible resilience

    “I visited the camp for the first time a year ago, and every time I go there, I am deeply moved by the incredible resilience of these families to cope with adversities. Children playing football…with sand and a couple of stones as goal posts. Girls returning to their tents after school, carrying, with immense joy, their books and pencils,” says Ms. Elmi.

    While UNICEF and partners are striving to address the new influx of refugees and to make sure the needs of both refugees and host communities are met, major challenges hamper the response. As the number of children in Mauritania swells, more resources are needed to allow education and other services to meet ever-increasing demand.

    And, with the situation in Mali unclear, it might be some time before the refugees can return to their country. UNICEF, in coordination with UNHCR, government and other partners, has to be ready to continue providing services as long as the need exists. Amid overlapping emergencies and simmering ethnic and political tensions, the fate of the children of Mali depends on continuing strong commitment to their survival.


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    Source: New Era
    Country: Mali, Namibia, South Africa

    WINDHOEK - Namibia has pledged undisclosed monetary support towards the funding of the International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to provide support to Malian troops fighting to repel Islamist rebels in the north of the country. “The details of [the monetary pledge would] be communicated to the African Union Commission in due course,” Namibia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union (AU) Anne Namakau Mutelo said.

    President Hifikepunye Pohamba said AU member states “decided to support the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the international community to repel the rebels and restore the territorial integrity of Mali.” Mutelo reminded that last year Namibia strongly condemned the declaration of the so-called independence of Azawad, the coup d’état that was perpetrated by the rebels and the attempts made by the rebels to dismember the sisterly country of Mali. “Namibia firmly stands by the African Union principle to reject unconstitutional changes of government and to condemn coups d’états whenever they occur,” Mutelo said.

    Mutelo made the pledge on behalf of Namibia at the pledging conference on January 29 at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. Namibia’s neighbour across the Orange River, South Africa, pledged US$10 million (about N$89.4 million at the current exchange rate) to AFISMA. The AU sought to raise US$50 million of the estimated US$460 million needed for AFISMA. The 20th Summit of the AU took place on January 27 to 28.

    “Namibia wishes to fully support the efforts made by ECOWAS, the AU and the international community to assist the Malian forces in repelling the rebels, with the aim to restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Mali,” Mutelo said, adding: “This will enable Mali to restore its constitutional democratic governance as a peaceful and stable country in the region.” South Africa pledged US$10 million for the capacitation of police forces, to the Mali Donor Fund. “South Africa rises on this occasion to add its voice to those of our fellow African brothers and sisters and the international role players in condemning the acts of violence perpetrated against the peoples of Mali,” said Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula at the same occasion.

    South Africa also sent 10 million Euros (about N$122 million) worth of humanitarian aid to the country. This was in addition to the US$55m (about N$499 million) pledged by the African Union to the donor fund. “It is hoped that this is the materialisation of Africa’s aspiration to stand up against the grave acts of those who opt for blood shedding and political turmoil in trying to satisfy their needs and sometimes, wants,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

    Japan has pledged over US$120 million, while the United States pledged US$96 million. “The whole world has gathered here, it is very good for Mali,” Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly said during the landmark pledging conference in Addis Ababa.

    A woeful lack of cash and logistical resources has hampered AFISMA in its support of Malian troops against Islamist forces who seized swathes of the arid north after a coup last year. So far, just 2 000 African troops have been sent to Mali or neighbouring Niger, with the bulk of the fighting borne by some 2 500 French troops, who launched a military offensive on January 11.


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    Source: Terre des hommes Foundation Child Relief
    Country: Burkina Faso, Mali

    Terre des hommes (Jeremie Henriod)

    For several months Mali has been going through serious socio-political disturbances, triggering the exodus of thousands of refugees to Burkina Faso. But for a good many of them, crossing to the ‘country of honest men’ does not mean an end to their sufferings, indeed quite the opposite. Many accounts bear witness to the bad treatment meted out to Mali refugees in the camps, mostly to women and children. To combat this evil, Terre des hommes has organized a series of meetings to promote the awareness of gender-based violence (GBV) of the various people involved and to give them training.

    In the news for over a year now, Mali has been the scene of a conflict between the army and various armed groups. However, the effects of the clashes are felt far beyond the country’s borders. For many Malians, exile to Burkina Faso was the sole possibility to escape the horrors of war. But the living conditions in the reception camps are extremely harsh and violent acts against women and children have become a reality.

    Working for the past 25 years in Burkina Faso, Tdh decided to react by setting up a programme for refugee protection. For this, meetings were organized in several towns in the country to tackle the subject of gender-based violence. The main aim was to strengthen the knowledge of the members of the child protection network so that they could detect, locate and reintegrate the victims. On this occasion, Tdh also invited social action agents and representatives of the police force with the aim of discussing the means available to develop preventative measures and the fight against GBV.

    Held from November 2012 to January 2013 in Bobo-Dioulasso, Ferrério, Goudebou, Sag-Niniogo and Ouagadougou, these meetings showed that the majority of cases sadly occur far too often in silence. Herman Zoungrana, the head of programmes for protection at Tdh, stated that the authorities do not necessarily possess the means to stop the aggression, but he believes that society also contributes by not feeling concerned about this situation of violence.

    In one of the least developed countries in the world, where half the population is aged under 15, the collective efforts of all the parties involved in child protection is an essential. To this end, the project ‘Protection of Refugees’ started by Tdh and financed by the High Commission for Refugees (HCR) and by the UNICEF will enable all the actors to fight against gender-based violence in a coordinated way.


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    Source: Terre des hommes Foundation Child Relief
    Country: Burkina Faso, Mali

    Terre des hommes (Jérémie Henriod)

    Le Mali connait depuis quelques mois de graves troubles sociopolitiques, provoquant l’arrivée de milliers de réfugiés au Burkina Faso. Pourtant, pour bons nombres d’entre eux, le passage dans « le pays des hommes intègres » ne signifie pas la fin de leurs souffrances, bien au contraire. Plusieurs témoignages font état de mauvais traitements infligés aux réfugiés maliens dans les camps, dont une majorité de femmes et d’enfants. Afin de faire face à ce fléau, Terre des hommes a organisé une série de conférences pour sensibiliser et former différents acteurs aux violences basées sur le genre (VGB).

    Au cœur de l’actualité, le Mali est depuis plus d’un an maintenant le théâtre d’un conflit entre l’armée et divers groupes armés. Cependant, les effets de ces affrontements se font ressentir bien au-delà des frontières de l’Etat. Pour beaucoup de Maliens, l’exil vers le Burkina Faso a été la seule issue pour échapper aux horreurs de la guerre. Pourtant, les conditions de vie dans les camps d’accueil sont extrêmement pénibles et les violences à l’encontre des femmes et des enfants sont devenus une réalité.

    Présente depuis plus de 25 ans au Burkina Faso, Tdh a décidé de réagir en mettant sur pied un programme de « protection des réfugiés ». Pour l’occasion, des séminaires ont été organisés dans différentes villes du pays pour aborder les violences basées sur le genre. L’objectif principal était de renforcer les connaissances des membres du réseau de protection de l’enfance afin qu’ils puissent détecter, repérer et réinsérer les victimes. A cette occasion, Tdh a également convié des agents de l’action sociale et des représentants de la police dans le but d’échanger sur les moyens à disposition pour développer la prévention et la lutte.

    Tenues de novembre 2012 à janvier 2013 à Bobo-Dioulasso, Ferrério, Goudebou, Sag-Niniogo et Ouagadougou, ces conférences ont permis de montrer que la plupart des cas sont malheureusement bien trop souvent passés sous silence. Herman Zoungrana, chef de programmes de protection chez Tdh, précise que les autorités ne possèdent pas forcément les moyens pour appréhender les agressions, mais estime que la société a également sa part de responsabilité en ne se sentant pas concernée par cette situation de violence.

    Dans un des pays les moins développés du monde, où la moitié de la population a moins de 15 ans, la mise en commun de toutes les parties impliquées dans la protection de l’enfance est une nécessité. Dans ce but, le projet « protection des réfugiés », initié par Tdh et financé par le Haut-commissariat pour les réfugiés (HCR) et par l’UNICEF va permettre à tous les acteurs de lutter contre les violences basées sur le genre d’une manière coordonnée.


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali, occupied Palestinian territory, Syrian Arab Republic

    02/06/2013 10:27 GMT

    by Taieb Mahjoub

    CAIRO, Feb 6, 2013 (AFP) - Heads of state from across the Islamic world meet in Cairo Wednesday to tackle crises ranging from Syria's civil war to the battle against Islamist militants in Mali, with their sharp differences expected to be laid bare.

    Syria will not be represented at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit even though much of the debate is expected to be focused on the conflict that has ravaged that country for almost 23 months, leaving tens of thousands dead.

    The meeting will gather leaders of 26 of the OIC's 57 states, with Egypt's first Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, assuming the organisation's rotating presidency.

    The gathering will call for "serious dialogue" between the Syrian opposition and government officials "not directly involved in oppression" according to a draft resolution obtained by AFP.

    The call for dialogue, drafted by foreign ministers after two days of preparatory meetings, will pile pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to respond to a surprise offer of talks by Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, leader of the opposition National Coalition.

    The document stresses the need to maintain "Syria's territorial integrity and sovereignty", while underlining that "the main responsibility for the continued violence falls on the Syrian government".

    The United Nations says more than 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began as an anti-regime uprising but deteriorated into civil war when Assad's forces used violence to put down protests.

    The attendance of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the first visit to Egypt by an Iranian president since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, could complicate debate.

    Iran is the chief regional backer of Assad, while Egypt and Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia bitterly oppose the Syrian president and support rebels seeking his ouster.

    A meeting is scheduled between Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- members of a quartet dealing with Syria -- on the sidelines of the summit.

    The two-day meeting had been scheduled to take place in 2011 but was postponed due to the regional uprisings that overthrew four Arab dictators, including Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak, the OIC's secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said.

    The summit "will discuss the major conflicts in the Islamic world," the former Turkish diplomat told AFP.

    It will provide OIC members, with their differing foreign policies, a chance "to coordinate positions and support the states' sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

    The Cairo summit will also discuss the conflict in Mali, where France is pursuing attacks against Islamist militants.

    Egypt and Qatar have in the past said that the conflict in Mali needed to be resolved politically.

    The Islamic leaders will also discuss the issue of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, a subject regularly brought up at OIC summits since the organisation's creation in 1969.

    The questions of Islamophobia, Muslim minorities in the world and economic cooperation in the Islamic world are also on the agenda.

    Sectarian tensions between the Islamic world's Sunnis and Shiites were brought to the surface on Tuesday during Ahmadinejad's visit to Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning.

    Senior Al-Azhar clerics launched into a tirade against "some Shiites" for insulting some of the Prophet Mohammed's companions as the Iranian president listened with noticeable unease.

    Ahmadinejad was also targeted by a shoe-throwing protester as he left a Cairo mosque. Four people have been detained over the incident, a security official said.

    tm/jaz/jds/bpz

    © 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali

    02/06/2013 20:02 GMT

    Par André VIOLLAZ

    NEW YORK (Nations unies), 6 fév 2013 (AFP) - Les Nations unies ont commencé mercredi à étudier la création d'une force de maintien de la paix au Mali, qui ne se déployerait qu'après la fin de l'offensive militaire française et pourrait être amenée à demeurer sur place pendant des années.

    "La France a évoqué la perspective de la création d'une opération de maintien de la paix (au Mali) sous casque bleu lorsque les conditions sécuritaires le permettront", a déclaré à la presse l'ambassadeur français Gérard Araud à l'issue de consultations à huis clos du Conseil de sécurité.

    "Il n'y a eu aucune objection" au sein du Conseil, a assuré M. Araud, selon lequel les Etats-Unis, le Royaume uni, le Maroc ou l'Argentine se sont déclarés prêts à en discuter.

    Il faudra néanmoins "plusieurs semaines pour prendre une décision" et une nouvelle résolution du Conseil.

    Il faudra aussi l'aval des autorités maliennes, qui ont manifesté une certaine réticence à "la présence des Nations unies dans le sud" du pays, a reconnu M. Araud.

    Selon le patron des opérations de maintien de la paix de l'ONU Hervé Ladsous, la future force de l'ONU "sera d'abord basée sur l'existant, c'est-à-dire les unités de la Cédéao et du Tchad" qui étaient pressenties pour constituer la MISMA, (Mission internationale de soutien au Mali).

    La MISMA a été autorisée par une résolution du Conseil de sécurité en décembre dernier et ses effectifs ont gonflé jusqu'à plus de 6.000 hommes. Le Tchad a promis de son côté 2.000 hommes.

    Tout ou partie de ces troupes passeront sous la bannière ONU mais il ne s'agira pas d'une force hybride, comme la Minuad au Darfour (force conjointe ONU/Union africaine). Ce sera "une force sous casque bleu avec une chaîne de commandement remontant au Conseil de sécurité", a précisé M. Araud.

    Réconciliation nationale

    Pour M. Ladsous, l'avantage est de garantir "un cadre et des ressources financières stables", prises sur le budget de l'ONU.

    Mais pas question de déployer ces Casques bleus avant la fin de l'offensive française et sans plusieurs semaines de préparation.

    Un autre diplomate du Conseil table sur un délai de deux mois environ à partir de l'adoption d'une nouvelle résolution, qui ne devrait pas intervenir avant fin février. "Les Français, explique-t-il, évoquent encore un mois environ d'activité" militaire intense, ce qui fait que les Casques bleus pourraient être à pied d'oeuvre au mieux "dans trois mois".

    Restera aussi à définir le rôle des troupes françaises. Il y a en théorie plusieurs possibilités: placer des soldats français "sous casque bleu" comme dans la FINUL (force de l'ONU au Liban) ou leur donner un rôle autonome de soutien ou de réaction rapide (opérations Licorne en Côte d'Ivoire ou Epervier au Tchad).

    Selon Richard Gowan, de l'Université de New York, les Français "voudront maintenir au Mali une force d'intervention rapide indépendante".

    Au Mali, ajoute M. Gowan, les Casques bleus devront aussi jouer un rôle politique pour promouvoir une réconciliation nationale, "sinon leur mission sera sans fin comme en République démocratique du Congo".

    Outre la "stabilisation du pays", l'ONU doit "aider les Maliens à parvenir à un nouveau pacte national malien", a affirmé M. Araud. Il a aussi "insisté sur la nécessité de déployer des observateurs des droits de l'homme" dans les zones reprises aux islamistes. Human Rights Watch a accusé les soldats maliens d'avoir commis des exactions dans le nord du pays, en particulier contre des civils d'origine touareg ou arabe, soupçonnés de soutenir les islamistes.

    Avec un mandat aussi vaste, l'ONU doit se préparer à "maintenir une présence pendant plusieurs années", note un diplomate occidental. "Le mandat initial sera de douze mois mais il est certain que les problèmes politiques entre Bamako et les Touaregs ne seront pas réglés dans ce délai".

    avz/lor

    © 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse


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    Source: IRIN
    Country: Mali

    DAKAR, 6 February 2013 (IRIN) - Relief groups are considering resuming or expanding their operations in northern Mali after French and Malian troops took key towns from militant Islamists who controlled the region for nine months.

    Insecurity in the north during this period disrupted and restricted aid operations and also prevented free movement of the local population.

    "The problem of access was double-edged. Many people who were being treated for malnutrition could not get to the health centres while health workers could not reach them. The main roads were blocked," said Lucile Grosjean, the emergency communication coordinator for Action Against Hunger (ACF).

    "The situation is still fluid. We have to wait and see how it evolves. Just a month ago Gao [northeastern town] was under the control of MUJAO [Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa]," Grosjean told IRIN. MUJAO was one of three Islamist and Al-Qaeda-linked militant groups that seized swathes of territory in Mali's north.

    ACF, which runs nutrition and health programmes in northern Mali, continued operations throughout the period of Islamist rule, but only in the main towns and had to suspend field operations by mobile medical teams, Grosjean said, adding that the priority now was to "expand our programme around Gao".

    Islamist fighters looted World Food Programme (WFP) warehouses, forcing the closure of offices and the withdrawal of staff. WFP, which has since been working through NGO partners in the north, is slowly resuming operations there, said Zlatan Milisic, WFP country director for Mali.

    "The year 2013 represents a shift in our activities from a combined drought-and-conflict emergency response of last year to one focusing mainly on the consequences of the conflict in the north," Milisic told IRIN.

    "As soon as the barges that operate on River Niger started going north from Mopti, we started planning for resumption of activities," he said, explaining that WFP has since late January shipped some 600 tons of food for around 35,000 people to the Timbuktu area.

    WFP plans to triple the amount of food sent to the north and open a transport route between Niamey, the capital of neighbouring Niger, and Gao, Milisic said.

    The occupation of northern Mali worsened the plight of residents there (previously hit by serious food shortages and drought in 2011-2012). The recent military offensive that has seen many food traders, mainly Arabs or Tuaregs, flee after reprisal attacks, has caused food and fuel price hikes, Oxfam said in a statement.

    Markets are running out of stocks after looting, and food prices have now risen by almost 20 percent in Gao since the Franco-Malian armed intervention began on 11 January, Oxfam added. Money is also getting scarce in Gao Region, where banks have been closed for several months, and cash supplies from the capital Bamako are dwindling due to restricted movement, ACF said

    "There is a huge food security problem which adds to the insecurity during the last nine months. Fields were not sufficiently cultivated and the harvest was low," Grosjean explained.

    Limited access

    Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which also maintained operations in the north during the Islamist occupation, said access to some areas still remained off-limits to aid groups.

    "We cannot travel to certain places as the situation is still uncertain. Like everybody else, we are waiting," said Julie Damond, MSF's regional communications officer.

    However, in central Mali, humanitarian access is improving.

    "The north is still pretty much closed off. There is a very small presence of some NGOs in the north. Access. is blocked because it's still considered a military zone," said Sean Gallagher, the resident representative of Catholic Relief Services, which is currently operating in central and southern Mali.

    "People [aid groups] are anxious to get up there to assess the situation and help those who are suffering. They are anxious but at the same time there are security issues," Gallagher said. "There is a lot of hope too after the forces rapidly took those areas which were under the militants and are now securing them. It gives hope that access will come soon. We are mulling moving to Gao, but the decision will be based on access."

    The recent fighting has displaced nearly 10,000 people who have sought refuge in Bamako and the central towns of Ségou and Mopti. Some 15,000 others have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries.

    ob/cb

    [END]


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    Source: World Food Programme
    Country: Algeria, Chad, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Western Sahara
    preview



    Key Points

    • The resumption of hostilities in northern Mali leads to an influx of displaced people in an ever more difficult context for affected populations
    • Prices of millet are still high in the Sahel despite a good harvest
    • Food insecurity still persists because of the 2011-2012 crises which resulted from natural disasters, high malnutrition rates and prices still high for the poorest Sahelian households
    • Locust invasions are decreasing

    L'essentiel

    • Reprise des hostilités au Mali provoquant un afflux de personnes déplacées dans un contexte restant difficile pour les populations déjà affectées (nord du pays, déplacés , réfugiés)
    • Malgré de bonnes récoltes, les prix du mil demeurent élevés au Sahel
    • Persistance de situations d’insécurité alimentaire provoquées par la crise de 2011-2012 à cause des catastrophes naturelles, des taux élevés de malnutrition et des prix encore élevés pour les ménages les plus pauvres au Sahel
    • Baisse des infestations acridiennes

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    Source: IRIN
    Country: Mauritania

    KAEDI/NOUAKCHOTT/DAKAR, 6 February 2013 (IRIN) - Despite a decent harvest and pasture coverage for livestock, aid agencies say they and donors must not underestimate vulnerability in Mauritania, having admitted they seriously underestimated the extent of the crisis in 2012 due to inadequate assessment systems and insufficient alarm calls to donors to respond.

    "We underestimated the size of the crisis - everyone: the international community and all of our partners," said Alain Cordeil, head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), in a recent phone interview from the capital Nouakchott. "We are recognizing this and acknowledging the mistake."

    In 2011 agricultural production dropped by an "incredible" 40 percent, according to WFP. "This had never been seen in the past," said Cordeil.

    WFP geared up to provide a large-scale response in April 2012 but prior to that many people had been left with very little or no assistance for almost one year. "They were very vulnerable." WFP admits that it responded to the problem very late.

    Following good rains, this year food production of rain-fed cereals (rice, millet and sorghum) is 25 percent higher than the past five-year average in Mauritania, according to the January-June forecast by USAID's famine early warning system (FEWS NET), while produce from flood-plain (`décrue') plantings is still being harvested. The price of imported cereals - which provide Mauritania with 70 percent of its grain needs - is more or less stable.

    However, aid agencies in Mauritania are doubling their 2012 ask to call for US$180 million in 2013.

    This is mainly because the number of estimated food insecure people has gone up from the initial 700,000 at the beginning of 2012 to 1.1 million, partly because of accumulated vulnerability from 2012.

    "In 2013 it won't be the crisis that is the issue, it will be the effects of the [2012] crisis," said Sandrine Flament, head of Action Against Hunger (ACF - Spain) in Mauritania.

    Some 72,000 Mauritanians are predicted to be moderately or severely malnourished in 2013.

    Too few assessments

    Country-wide food security and nutrition assessments are performed biannually in Mauritania - usually in December and June, but a lot can happen in those six months and more frequent assessments are needed to show the evolution of a crisis, said WFP.

    The December 2011 food security assessment in Mauritania put the number of hungry at 800,000 but this had shot up to 1.2 million by July 2012. Cordeil says the number could have been even higher; 2013 needs have stuck closer to this figure.

    "We were blind," said Cordeil. "In between the six months you can't see an evolution."

    Food security assessments are expensive at $90,000 a go, while SMART nutrition surveys cost $150,000. "We don't have the resources to add more," said Cordeil.

    But agencies are starting to make changes. WFP has been discussing setting up a monitoring unit with the government's Food Security Commission (CSA), which would put in place observation points in vulnerable areas: each month CSA would conduct limited, targeted household surveys to give a snapshot of some of the bigger trends.

    ACF also advocates better monitoring in target areas, calling for weekly market and nutritional status analyses. It is currently working on a pilot scheme to aggregate better malnutrition data that can be sent via SMS to enhance real-time monitoring.

    "Image problem"

    Staff IRIN spoke to said they hoped better information would enable them to put their arguments across more forcefully to donors in future. Another "image problem" is due to the country's relatively small population. "Given $1, donors would prefer to give it to Burkina, which has three to four times more people than Mauritania," said Cordeil. (Burkina Faso has an estimated 17 million people, Mauritania 3.3 million).

    The relatively low numbers (while 700,000 people in Mauritania were initially ascertained to be food insecure before the figure shot up, the number in Niger was 6.4 million and in Mali 4.6 million) often lead aid agencies to instinctively limit funding appeals, practising a form of self-censorship. "There is a psychological barrier preventing people from asking for too much, so we just say let's do what we can with the little that we have," said Cordeil.

    FEWS NET predicts many heavily indebted farmers will be able to reduce their debt burden this year, and potentially build up village grain stocks. But it also predicts humanitarian aid, which was crucial for many in 2012, is likely to drop in 2013, leaving some - particularly the minority who have suffered a poor harvest this year as well - very vulnerable.

    IRIN spoke to farmers in December 2012 whose harvests were ruined by flooding when their dykes burst. FEWS NET says others lost the seeds they planted to grasshoppers and birds. Pastoralists will also likely face severe problems accessing pasture as much of the border with Mali will be more or less inaccessible due to the Mali crisis.

    The 2013 Sahel appeal stresses resilience and the need to address root causes of hunger and poverty. But while 2013 looks set to be a better year than 2012, the chronic vulnerability that farmers and pastoralists face, set against the emphasis to-date on short-term emergency solutions, has had very little to do with resilience thus far, said ACF and WFP.

    "They are talking about resilience," said Cordeil, "while here, the population is dying."

    aj/cb

    [END]


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali

    02/06/2013 15:32 GMT

    GENEVE, 06 fév 2013 (AFP) - Les Nations Unies espèrent pouvoir accéder dans les prochains jours au nord Mali pour y reprendre les distributions d'aide humanitaire, a indiqué mercredi à Genève David Gressly, responsable des opérations pour la région au Bureau de coordination des Affaires humanitaires de l'ONU (Ocha).

    "Nous avons à nouveau accès au centre du Mali (...) mais nous cherchons un accès plus large, à travers tout le nord Mali. Nous sommes préoccupés par la situation de la population du nord. Environ 500.000 personnes sont en situation alimentaire précaire et ont besoin d'aide", a-t-il souligné.

    Les services d'Ocha sont en train d'évaluer la situation sur le terrain et "en fonction de cela nous devrions pouvoir rétablir une présence", a ajouté M. Gressly.

    Il a estimé que 10 millions de personnes cette année au Sahel risquent la malnutrition. Une autre estimation cette semaine de la Fédération des sociétés de Croix Rouge et Croissant Rouge faisait état de 18 millions de personnes menacées de malnutrition au Sahel.

    Les distributions d'aide par les agences onusiennes avaient été interrompues au centre et nord Mali avec la reprise des combats à la mi janvier. Elles ont repris les 2 et 3 février au centre du Mali, en utilisant des bateaux sur le fleuve Niger à destination de la région de Tombouctou.

    jwf/pjt/fw

    © 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse


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    Source: Handicap International
    Country: Mali

    Handicap International has sent an explosive weapons expert to Mali to identify areas contaminated with explosive weapons and prepare for clearance operations to protect the local population. The initial findings are alarming and we are mobilising an emergency weapons clearance team to begin operations within days.

    Civilians in Mali are gradually returning to their homes in areas that saw heavy fighting. These areas are littered with explosive remnants of war, as well as small arms and light weapons abandoned by fleeing combatants. Action needs to be taken as quickly as possible in order to avoid serious accidents.

    Grenades, shells and munitions strewn along the roads

    Philippe Houliat is a weapons clearance expert for Handicap International. Philippe explains: “I am currently in Diabali, one of the towns which has recently seen fighting. The extent of the contamination is a grave concern. Grenades and munitions are strewn along the roads which were targeted by bombing. Shells and other small arms have been abandoned in houses in the centre of the town... These weapons represent a lethal threat to the local population who are now starting to return to their homes. There is an imminent threat to local populations. We therefore need to urgently reinforce our risk education teams to warn local people about the dangers of these devices, and to simultaneously start working to destroy these weapons.”

    The need to raise awareness is urgent

    Handicap International teams have been carrying out awareness-raising activities with communities and displaced people in the north of Mali since last summer. We are now also deploying teams to identify and assess areas that have been contaminated with explosive weapons so that we can start clearance operations in the immediate future. The team, which was recently dispatched to Konna to assess levels of contamination have decided to carry out emergency awareness-raising with the local community immediately.

    Alhous Maïga, Handicap International’s Arms Risk Education project manager in Mopti explains: “We identified so many unexploded remnants of war that it was imperative that we warn the local population before continuing with our evaluation mission.”

    Some schools will contain abandoned weapons

    Alhous Maïga believes that Handicap International's awareness-raising activities are indispensable and these activities must be urgently carried out in order to avoid accidents over the coming weeks: "Schools are due to open again this Monday and some of them have been used as bases by fighters who used them to store munitions and probably weapons and explosive devices. We are very afraid there will be accidents. In-depth evaluations need to be carried out, trained teams capable of neutralising these weapons dispatched where required, and teachers and children need to be made aware of the dangers so they can recognise and stay away from any dangerous devices."

    Clearance operations to start with days

    In the next few days the first Handicap International weapons clearance team made up of international experts from Mauritania, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, will begin working together with Malian staff to start safely destroying explosive weapons identified during the on-going assessments. These activities will soon be expanded and we will have four clearance teams operating in Mali by the end of February.


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    Source: UN Radio
    Country: Mali

    Ecouter

    Avec le conflit armé au Mali, les restes explosifs de guerre dans le Nord du pays sont abondants, constate l'UNMAS, le Service de l'action antimines des Nations Unies. Depuis mars 2012, 42 victimes de ces engins explosifs ont été signalés au Mali. Près de la moitié de ces victimes sont des enfants. En outre, la prolifération des armes et la présence de nombreuses installations de stockage de munitions non sécurisées est une préoccupation supplémentaire qui pourrait conduire à un accès non réglementé à l’armement et la prolifération illicite.

    Depuis la fin de 2011, le Nord du Mali a connu une prolifération des armes lourdes et légères. Il s’agit d’une conséquence directe du conflit en Libye au cours de laquelle les zones de stockage des munitions et des armes ont été laissées sans surveillance, ainsi qu’en raison de l’abandon des camps militaires suite à l’avance des groupes rebelles armés. Par conséquent, les restes explosifs de guerre dans le Nord sont abondants et la libre circulation des armes et autres restes explosifs de guerre et des munitions ont également été signalés.

    Le Mali est aussi confronté depuis mars 2012 à une sérieuse crise humanitaire, avec le Nord du pays, Tombouctou, Kidal et Gao, sous le contrôle de divers groupes rebelles armés. Le conflit dans le Nord a poussé 442.775 personnes à quitter leurs foyers. Parmi celles-ci, 174 000 personnes sont déplacées et 268.775 sont réfugiées dans les pays voisins.

    Charles Frisby, le Chef du programme de l'Unité antimines des Nations Unies au Mali, explique le travail de l'UNMAS sur le terrain pour sauver des vies.

    (Extrait sonore : Charles Frisby, Chef de programme de l'Unité antimines des Nations Unies au Mali ; propos recueillis par Jean-Pierre Amisi Ramazani)


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    Source: Famine Early Warning System Network
    Country: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
    preview


    Heavy rains cause flooding and waterlogging

    KEY MESSAGES

    • Extremely high rainfall in south-eastern parts of the region has caused flooding and waterlogging in several countries.
    • Late onset, erratic rainfall, and high temperatures have resulted in crop failure, requiring replanting in affected parts of Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique. In Lesotho, crop performance has been negatively affected by poor rainfall and high temperatures.
    • Despite the negative impacts of inclement weather in many countries, crop conditions are reported to be good in many parts of Malawi, parts of central and northern Mozambique, the main maize-production areas of South Africa, unimodal parts of Tanzania, and most parts of Zambia.
    • Armyworm outbreaks have been reported in Botswana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These outbreaks have occurred at different levels of severity and in some cases they will likely impact overall national production negatively.


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    Source: Agence France-Presse
    Country: Mali

    02/06/2013 20:28 GMT

    by Serge Daniel

    GAO, Mali, Feb 06, 2013 (AFP) - France urged the United Nations Wednesday to send peacekeepers to Mali, where French forces have killed hundreds of Islamist rebels but are still coming under attack in territory reclaimed from the extremists.

    After announcing plans to start withdrawing its 4,000 troops from Mali in March, France called for deploying a UN peacekeeping force to take the baton, the French ambassador to the world body said after closed Security Council talks on the crisis.

    Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a peacekeeping force could be in place by April, incorporating troops being deployed under the banner of a West African intervention force, AFISMA, into a UN peacekeeping mission.

    "Once security is assured, we can certainly envisage, without changing the structures, that this takes place in the framework of a peacekeeping operation," Fabius told journalists in Paris.

    "This gives the advantage of being under the umbrella of the United Nations, under its financing," he said.

    "This doesn't mean at all that the organisation would be modified, it would simply be under the general umbrella of the UN."

    UN ambassador Gerard Araud said it would take "several weeks" to make an assessment on when French troops can hand over to peacekeepers.

    France launched a surprise intervention in its former colony on January 11 as a triad of Islamist groups that had seized control of the north in the aftermath of a military coup pushed south toward the capital Bamako.

    French-led forces have largely pushed the rebels back to remote mountains near the Algerian border but are still being attacked in retaken territory, raising fears of a prolonged insurgency.

    French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the rebels had hit back at troops with rocket fire on Tuesday in Gao, the largest northern city.

    "Once our troops, supported by Malian forces, started patrols around the towns that we have taken, they met residual jihadist groups who are still fighting," Le Drian said on Europe 1 radio.

    "The combat isn't over. The attacks are going to continue," a spokesman for the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) told AFP.

    The Malian army arrested two young men in Gao's market Wednesday who were brandishing two grenades and a pistol, though it was unclear "whether they planned to commit an attack or wanted to use the weapons for robbery", a police spokesman said.

    On Tuesday, Le Drian said the French-led operation had so far killed "several hundred" Al Qaeda-linked militants.

    "This is a real war with significant losses but I'm not going to get into an accounting exercise," he said Wednesday when asked about the toll.

    France's sole fatality so far has been a helicopter pilot killed at the start of the operation.

    Mali said 11 of its troops were killed and 60 wounded in early fighting but has not since released a new death toll.

    The UN said Wednesday it had regained access for aid operations in central Mali, and hoped to soon be able to move into the north, where landmines and lingering rebels still pose a security threat.

    "We could have access over coming days," said David Gressly, who steers UN humanitarian operations in the region.

    Some 500,000 people are facing hunger in the north, he said.

    -- Distraction from the war --

    French President Francois Hollande, who has vowed to stay in Mali as long as it takes, said a drawdown of troops would begin in March "if everything goes to plan", a spokeswoman said.

    France now has as many troops in Mali as it had at the peak of its deployment in Afghanistan in 2010.

    French fighter jets continue to pound the area around the Adrar des Ifoghas massif in the far northeast, a craggy mountain landscape honeycombed with caves where the insurgents are believed to have fled with seven French hostages.

    Mali has effusively welcomed the reclaiming of its northern territory, but the national mood took a downward turn when the national football team lost the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations Wednesday.

    "A semi-final victory could have distracted us a little bit from this war," said an agitated Diakari Dia, 21, in the capital.

    burs-jhb/fb/boc

    © 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse


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    Source: UN News Service
    Country: Mali

    6 February 2013 – Humanitarian access is improving in Mali but the situation remains volatile, a senior United Nations relief official said today, warning that an estimated 10 million people in the wider Sahel region could be at risk of starvation this year.

    “This crisis in the north [of Mali] is coming on top of a broad, chronic crisis across the Sahel in which millions of people are being affected by food insecurity,” David Gressly, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, told reporters in Geneva.

    “We have to be prepared for the situation to get worse. That’s not a prediction that it will get worse. But we need to be prepared for that,” he cautioned.

    The Sahel region in West Africa consists of Mali, as well as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Gambia, Cameroon and Nigeria. The humanitarian community has appealed for over $1.6 billion to help millions in need in the region.

    In Mali, about half a million people are food insecure and more than 4.3 million people are in need of humanitarian aid after fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict uprooted thousands of people and prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.

    The UN is also concerned about the protection of civilians on the ground, Mr. Gressley told UN Radio, noting that there have been unproven allegations of abuses in northern Mali.

    In recent weeks, the military efforts reasserted Malian control in the centre and north of the country, allowing humanitarian access to improve. Domestic UN humanitarian flights have resumed and need assessments are underway in Gao, Kidal, Mopti and Segou.

    Despite the improvements, access to northern Mali remains limited. Reports of landmines and improvised explosive devices (IED) have shut down sections of major truck routes and the Algerian border is closed.

    Just back from Mali, Mr. Gressly said the UN is simultaneously working to prepare for the people who may want to return, while also preparing for those who continue to be displaced or living outside the Syrian border.

    “I suspect that the moment the transport routes are secured, people will begin moving home. Returnees will take longer because there are reasons they left the country instead of moving south-ward.”

    UN aid workers are adapting to the changing conditions on the ground, Mr. Gressly said.

    “So far in most of the countries the [military] intervention has not had an impact on our work on the ground,” he said of the Sahel region.

    “We continue to have access there in all the countries concerned but we have to be prepared for the possibility that that could change over time. We will continue to see how we can secure our humanitarian personnel and action, if the situation were to worsen,” Mr. Gressly said.

    Last month, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, told the UN Security Council that the ongoing crisis in Mali is having far-reaching effects in West Africa and the Sahel.


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    Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
    Country: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal

    In 2012, aid organizations warned that about 18 million people were affected by the food and nutrition crisis across West Africa’s Sahel region. Drought, poor food production and chronic poverty left many families dependent on aid to cope with the crisis in nine countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, the Gambia, Cameroon and Nigeria.

    Read the full interview on OCHA


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