As fighting increases in the West African nation of Mali, Catholic Relief Services is preparing to expand its lifesaving work that is now providing assistance to thousands of people displaced by the violence that has engulfed the northern part of the country for nearly a year.
“We have been helping those displaced since combat began and, though we have to take precautions to protect our staff and assets in the affected areas, most of our work has not been interrupted,” said Sean Gallagher, CRS country representative in Mali. “With the escalation of fighting in the north and incursions further south in Mali, we expect to see even more people arrive in Bamako. They’ll likely need assistance with shelter, food and cash to meet their most urgent needs, and we are preparing to help them meet those needs.”
In Bamako, Mali’s capital, where hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the conflict have sought refuge, CRS continues to hand out emergency cash to help people pay rent, buy food and access health services. Elsewhere, CRS is preparing to distribute food to the most vulnerable. CRS also ran feeding programs in areas close to the fighting. Additional CRS staff is arriving in Mali to help the country program undertake new assessments to prepare to address the needs of the newly displaced.
Since March 2012, Mali has essentially been divided in two, as Islamist rebels, taking advantage of instability in Mali’s government in Bamako, occupied the northern half of the country. Fighting has now intensified around several northern and central towns as French, and now African, troops have joined the Malian army’s attempts to keep the rebels from advancing further south and to win back territory.
Since the last round of fighting began earlier this month, there have been more than 8,000 newly displaced people in southern Mali, bringing the total number to more than 228,000, according to the UN. Nearly 145,000 Malians have fled to neighboring countries since the beginning of the conflict, including Burkina Faso and Niger, where CRS county programs have been assisting them.
CRS Regional Information Officer Helen Blakesley will arrive in Mali on Monday, January 21 and can assist journalists. For more information, contact:
+221.77.333.4231 (From the U.S., dial 011.221.77.333.4231)