As the crisis in Mali continues – with French, Malian and other African troops battling rebels in the country’s north – CRS continues to meet the needs of those displaced by the conflict. CRS’ Helen Blakesley is currently in Bamako, Mali’s capital, where CRS assists people with monthly cash distributions and other aid.
What is the current situation in Bamako?
Despite the conflict going on in the north of the country, Bamako, which lies in the southern part of Mali, remains relatively calm. People are going about their business and markets and businesses are open – though you can still feel a heightened sense of tension with all that is happening elsewhere in the country. What you don’t see immediately are the tens of thousands of people who had to flee their homes in the north and are now staying with relatives or ‘host’ families in Bamako. These people had to literally leave everything behind and travel for days to make it to safety.
What does CRS do assist those displaced by the conflict?
In Bamako, we’re continuing to help those who have fled with monthly cash distributions. CRS targets the most vulnerable displaced people by using certain criteria – are there more than 7 people in the family? Do they have special needs, like disabilities, illness or old age? Is it a single-parent household? Then, CRS gives each selected family the equivalent of $16 per person, per month. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lifeline. That helps cover basic needs like food, health costs, school fees or rent, if they’re not staying with a host family.
What will be the consequences of escalated fighting in the north?
The humanitarian situation will definitely grow bigger and more urgent as the crisis goes on. More families arrive each month and now especially, we’re expecting a new influx, so CRS is doing all it can to secure more funding so that we can help more people. So far, we’re helping around 4,000 Bamako-based displaced people but that is likely to rise dramatically very soon.
Does CRS work in other parts of the country as well?
The recent, increased fighting involving French troops forced us to take precautions to protect our staff and assets. Before that, we assisted people in the center of the country, in the region of Mopti. We distributed food, cash, and toiletries, built latrines and kitchen sites at a camp for displaced people. We reached over 7,000 households, so around 50,000 people. At the moment we’re assessing what the needs of the new influx of people are, and working with partners to co-ordinate aid. But a cessation of hostilities, or at least access to the civilian population in the north, is absolutely necessary to carry out our work in all parts of Mali.
For Helen’s full report, listen to the podcast.