Red Cross head warns of 'dire' Mali situation

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 08 Nov 2012

11/08/2012 14:02 GMT

GENEVA, Nov 08, 2012 (AFP) - Security risks, food shortages and the breakdown of political structures in north Mali have created a dire situation for around 500,000 people, the head of the Red Cross said Thursday.

"It remains a vulnerable region in terms of food security ... but compounded with the insecurity of the politics and military planning this becomes particularly dire and particularly sensitive," said Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Maurer, speaking to journalists in Geneva after his recent visit to Mali, cautioned that state structures in the north -- a desert region larger than France that was seized by Islamist rebels in the power vacuum after a March 22 coup in Bamako -- were "falling apart".

Mounting an aid operation was "delicate given the insecure situation," he said, but added that the ICRC had nonetheless set up nine rural medical centres.

It has also organised medical treatment in Gao hospital, which Maurer described as the only large medical facility still functioning in the north.

The ICRC had initially planned to bring food and medical aid to 160,000 people during the summer, but has now ramped up its efforts and was helping 420,000 people, Maurer said.

"We have 500,000 people who can't sustain themselves in the north," he said.

Getting aid to the south of the bow-tie shaped nation was far easier, as was assisting people who had fled from the north into neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, he said.

However, he cautioned, the situation in the south of Mali, where communities have taken in many of those displaced from the north, was in danger of rapid deterioration.

The area was now "getting to a threshold where there is nothing left" to give, he said.

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