19 November 2013 [Bamako - Mali]
The ECOWAS Commission will present Mali with about half a million US dollars in food aid within the next few weeks to support populations adversely affected by that country’s political and security crises, ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, Dr. Adrienne Diop announced in Bamako on Monday 18th November 2013.
In an address at a ceremony for the official deployment of twenty (20) members of the ECOWAS Emergency Response Team (EERT) in the country, the Commissioner said the food items, which include rice, were being procured with the facilitation of the World Food Programme (WFP).
In the address read by Ambassador Tcheaka Toure, Special Representative of the ECOWAS Commission’s President to Mali, the Commissioner recalled that apart from mobilizing international, political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the Malian crises, the regional organization has also rallied international financial support for post-conflict reconstruction of the country.
In April 2012, ECOWAS donated US$3 million dollars to Mali and another US$1.5 million to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger to support Malian populations displaced by the conflict.
The Commissioner thanked UN organizations including the refugee agency, UNHCR,
WFP, International Organization for Migration and other partners for their various contributions to the Commission and ECOWAS Member States.
She also commended EERT contributing countries and urged the team members to respect the ECOWAS core values, international humanitarian principles as well as Malian cultural values and people in their areas of deployment.
“You are ECOWAS ambassadors and must conduct yourselves with dignity to protect the image of our common organization, ECOWAS,” the Commissioner added.
Mali’s Minister of Labour, Social and Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Hamadou Konate, who presided at the ceremony, expressed the gratitude of the Malian Government and people to ECOWAS and its Member States, for coming to the aid of the country during its time of need.
He explained that the conflict which broke in Mali last year had unleashed an unprecedented burden of refugees, internally displaced persons and other socio-economic and humanitarian adverse effects on the country.
The Minister expressed the hope that the ECOWAS deployment would help strengthen the capacity of the country in addressing the humanitarian challenges and thereby facilitate its post-conflict reconstruction and recovery.
The Acting Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Mali, Mr. Noel Tsekouras commended ECOWAS for its laudable humanitarian initiatives and pledged his organization’s willingness to partner with the regional economic bloc to deliver on the objectives of the humanitarian support.
Speaking earlier at the beginning of a four-day pre-deployment training for the 20 EERT members, the UNOCHA official called for more international support for post-conflict recovery of Mali, noting that only 38% of the US$477 million appeal fund for the country had been received.
It is estimated that the Malian crises produced more than 169,000 refugees with another 311,000 internally displaced persons, with some 1.3 million people needing immediate food assistance in the north of the country.
Also, of the estimated 800,000 school age children in the country of some 16.5 million people, only 500,000 have been provided for in the 2013/14 academic year.
As part of the training on Monday, the EERT members being deployed for three months received briefings from UN Development Programme officials on the general situation in Mali, as well as on the security situation by Mr. Soulemane Thioune, the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) chief of MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali.
In his welcoming remarks, the ECOWAS Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Daniel Eklu enjoined the humanitarian support team to be mindful of the importance of their responsibility, while an ECOWAS consultant on humanitarian affairs, Mr. Alphonse Malanda, a former UNHCR Representative in Nigeria with accreditation to ECOWAS, outlined the team’s functions as well as do’s and don’ts.
The deployment by ECOWAS, with UNOCHA support, is within the framework of a regional Humanitarian Assistance. Four of the team members would be seconded to the UNHRC to support its voluntary repatriation and reintegration programme in Mali.