Mali - Humanitarian Brief: A rare possibility to avoid a protracted crisis (Dec 2015)

Almost four years after the escalation of conflict in the North, new momentum is required to avoid that Mali deteriorates into a protracted crisis. The signature of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in June 2015 has opened a unique window of opportunity. If it is not seized, it will soon be too late. Communities whose lives were shattered by the conflict expect to see peace dividends as soon as possible.

PERSISTING HUMANITARIAN NEEDS

A majority of communities affected by the conflict still struggle to access food, water, health care, education, protection and livelihoods opportunities. In some areas, the persisting insecurity continues to prevent the deployment of State and development actors. For many families, humanitarian actors are the sole providers of essential services.

The conflict has further exacerbated the vulnerabilities of communities. Their capacity to withstand shocks had already been eroded by repetitive droughts, floods, epidemics and chronic poverty - Mali ranks 176 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index. Emergency actions remain necessary to save lives and facilitate recovery, as it will take years for the Government and its development partners to address the root causes of chronic food insecurity, malnutrition and structural problems in the deliveryof basic social services.

PROTECTION CONCERNS

In northern and central Mali, criminality and terrorist acts pose significant threats to civilians. Various armed groups still effectively control large swaths of territory exposing unemployed and idle youths to recruitment risks. The lack of access to essential resources – such as water or land – contributes to inter-community tensions and risks fuelling renewed violence. Conditions for a safe and dignified return – such as security and access to essential services – have yet to be met in many areas. While the majority of internally displaced people have returned to their communities in northern and central Mali, they need ongoing support to restart their lives. Most refugees remain in neighbouring countries and condition their return on a durable peace and aid availability.

HUMANITARIAN ACCESS

Despite the Peace Accord, violence and criminality against aid workers and humanitarian assets have increased in the last months. Nonetheless, hundreds of humanitarian staff, in particular NGO personnel, are on the front-line delivering aid to the most vulnerable people in hard-to-reach or insecure areas. Despite recurring interruptions to their operations – mainly due to sporadic violence and logistical constraints - humanitarian organizations have adapted their modes of work in order to stay and deliver.

PROTRACTED REFUGEE SITUATION

Almost four years after the conflict erupted back home, more than 138,000 Malian refugees still remain in displacement in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. While most are living in camps, their prolonged presence puts a strain on already scarce resources of the host communities.
Recently, around 4,000 Malians fled to Niger saying they were escaping due to lawlessness, extortion, community rivalry and food shortages among other threats.

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