Mali faces an extremely challenging situation this year: an ongoing conflict, along with the overall country's fragility, lack of development progress, and extreme weather conditions have resulted in poor harvests for farmers and lost grazing grounds for herders. This situation is leading to early, long and very difficult lean seasons that will lead the affected population to severe food insecurity and acute malnutrition. The European Union's humanitarian aid helps the most vulnerable get through these difficult times. Our Director General, Monique Pariat, reports from the field.
By Monique Pariat, Director General, European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
Mali, one of the least developed countries of the world, has been torn by internal conflict since 2012. To make matters worse, irregular rainfall during the last rainy season has led to diminished harvests for farmers and of grazing ground for herders. I visited Mali in February and witnessed first-hand the numerous challenges faced by the vulnerable local communities.
In the region of Mopti, central Mali, I met farmers and herders who are facing tough times after an already difficult 2017 which depleted their resources. Once again they face a bad harvest while their herds are weakening. This bad harvest is pushing up food prices on the market, which makes it more difficult for herders to exchange their emaciated animals and buy food.
The extremely low water level of the River Niger means there is less drinking water for livestock; it also limits the farmers' ability to cultivate secondary crops. Restricted access to water points has led to increased tensions and clashes. Weapons are easy to obtain and exacerbate the impact of already ancient, yet escalating intercommunity conflicts.
Lack of access to adequate and sufficient food may trigger undernutrition among the most vulnerable, especially children under five and pregnant women.
This is why humanitarian assistance is so urgently needed.
This area of Mali was not affected by the insurgency in 2012. However, insecurity and criminality are rising, with more violence affecting central Mali. This makes it hard for aid organisations to get full access to those in need and deliver basic services such as healthcare and food.
Despite these difficult circumstances, the European Union and its humanitarian partners are bringing life-saving relief to Mali. Aid organisations funded by the EU provide cash assistance where the market allows, food aid to help the most affected meet their basic needs, and medical assistance in areas where state services have yet to return. In parallel, we are working very closely with our development colleagues to address the country's structural problems and help the local population build up their resilience to endemic poverty aggravated by climate and conflict.
The EU cares and acts; the aim is to make a real difference in the lives of those most in need in Mali.