Humanitarian organisation Action Against Hunger has reopened its humanitarian activities in the city of Gao whilst continuing programmes in Ansongo (near the Nigerian border) and Bourem. With over 15% of the region's children under five suffering from acute malnutrition (nearly 20,000 children), it is a priority for Action Against Hunger to regain access and deliver urgent treatment for malnutrition to the most vulnerable people as quickly as possible.
Action Against Hunger teams in Gao also aim to resume their mobile nutrition activities in rural areas of the north. Other programmes in Koulikouro, Bamako and Kayes continue to operate in partnership with the Malian Ministry of Health to detect and treat malnutrition, as well as improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene and developing food security and livelihoods.
With 64% of the population living below the poverty line, Mali’s problems are structural and deep rooted. These problems started long before the current crisis, but have intensified in recent months due to the combined effects of the food crisis across the Sahel in 2012 and the ongoing political crisis in Mali over the last several months. Even prior to the current crisis, the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition in Mali averaged 10.4 per cent with malnutrition being the country’s second leading cause of mortality in children under five years of age.
Scarcity of food, money and access to water in the North
Whilst Action Against Hunger’s main priority now is to restore access to healthcare, especially treatment for those suffering from malnutrition, teams are also extremely concerned about the disruption and closure of the trade routes that bring food supplies to areas of Northern Mali. With the Algerian border closed (where Gao’s food supplies usually come from) and fighting occurring on the Bamako-Gao axis, traders and carriers will find it a lot harder to get through.
The destruction of the town's fuel stockpiles is another factor that is preventing the normal flow of goods from being restored. It is also affecting operation of the Mali Energy company, who are responsible for supplying water to the people of Gao.
Since all of the town’s banks closed several months ago, money has been circulating and has been replenished by individual carriers transporting money between Bamako and Gao, but the current circulation problems mean that the whole town of Gao is now starting to experience a scarcity of money.
Small businesses have started to reopen in central Gao, using stockpiles that they have kept since the beginning of the military intervention. However, the scarcity of money and food may rapidly aggravate the situation for civilians living in Gao.
To combat this food crisis, Action Against Hunger teams have started carrying out rapid evaluations exploring ways to respond to the situation as quickly as they can, given the very volatile environment. “Everyone in Gao is talking about the imminent food shortages and people are extremely worried,” explains Franck Vannetelle, Country Director of Mali for Action Against Hunger.
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