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Nancy Palus February 18, 2013
As soldiers in Mali continue working to root out armed militants, aid organizations are navigating rivers and mined roads to bring relief to communities affected by the fighting. Some 36,000 people have fled their homes since fighting began in January, but families who stayed also need help.
Aid agencies say families in northern Mali are running dangerously low on food.
A reporter on the ground in northern Mali says most Islamist militants have fled the city of Gao since last week, when French warplanes bombed their positions.
The VOA reporter in Gao said Tuesday that some militants have been spotted in the area - driving in trucks or riding motorbikes or hiding out in trees. But he adds it is clear the Islamists are not numerous or organized enough to continue applying the strict Sharia law they imposed after taking control of the city last April.
BAMAKO, MALI — Concern is growing for Malian civilians caught in the fighting in the north and central parts of the country. French and Malian forces are trying to dislodge al-Qaida linked rebels who have controlled northern Mali since April and who began a push south on January 9. Aid agencies say military security measures are restricting humanitarian access to combat zones. As fighting escalates, authorities are confronted by the question of how to protect civilians amid fears that the enemy is hiding among them.
The first convoy delivering food and medicines to rebel-occupied northern Mali just returned to the capital Bamako. Aid workers are looking to this and other aid missions for insights and logistical tips as they prepare future convoys to the region, where armed groups reign and tens of thousands of people need assistance.
Aid organizations looted
In Bamako on Sunday, scores of people gathered at a monument where youths held up signs with information about where Malians can drop donations.
Led by Almahady Cissé, the group is preparing to send food, clothing, medicines and other supplies as part of a so-called "solidarity chain" of support for fellow Malians in the north. They're talking with local transport companies and NGOs about logistics for a humanitarian caravan that would pick up contributions in cities along the way, and Cisse says they plan to continue their sit-in until the first load is sent.