New York, 6 June 2022
Thanks all for joining us in this briefing. Special thanks, of course, to Ambassador Issa Konfourou and also to Alain [Noudéhou], who is along the table from me and was also my host in Mali the other day.
As mentioned, I had the privilege a short time ago of re-experiencing the warm hospitality of Mali, my second visit to that wonderful country, the first being 30 years before, in 1989.
It was important for me to visit Mali, where an unprecedented level of humanitarian needs is emerging – actually, the highest figures recorded since the conflict started in 2012.
The armed conflict has intensified.
Violence has sparked massive displacement.
Insecurity coupled with the impacts of climate change have made everyday life harder for many, many Malians.
And people living in the areas under the control of armed groups face even more problems. They are ‘suffering twice’.
The state of insecurity affects the civilian population and those who help. And as we know, tragically, two Red Cross aid workers and one NGO staff were attacked and killed in the Kayes region in recent days, since I left.
In separate incidents last week, one Jordanian and two Egyptian peacekeepers from MINUSMA were killed. Mali is one of the most dangerous environments for humanitarians and peacekeepers alike.
So, my mission there was focused on listening to the affected people and learning about the extremely complex situation on the ground, and what needs to be done to scale up our humanitarian response. As Sofie mentioned, I visited Mopti, otherwise my meetings were in Bamako.
I had the opportunity thus to engage with colleagues, Alain and his team, UN colleagues from agencies, national NGOs and international NGOs – including those focused on humanitarian access and negotiations with the various armed groups.
I also was fortunate enough to meet the Prime Minister of Mali, [Dr. Choguel Kokalla Maïga]; the Foreign Minister, [Mr. Oumarou Diarra]; the Minister of Health, [Dr. Fanta Siby]; and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, [Mr. Abdoulaye Diop] as well as the Governor in the Mopti region, [Major Abass Dembele].
I came away with a certain amount of optimism that some level of humanitarian access agreements can be reached and indeed had been reached. The Prime Minister confirmed to me his Government’s support for those agreements.
I met with displaced people, community leaders, mediators, civil society, activists who were very candid and talked to me about the work they do and how they see the situation.
One of the key objectives, as you can all imagine, of this visit was to understand better the worsening humanitarian situation I will refer to it again shortly and highlight the large funding gap the humanitarian operation faces in Mali.
Our Response Plan for Mali, asking for US$686 million in 2022 to assist 5.3 million people, is only 11 per cent funded, and we are nearly halfway through the year.
The humanitarian situation is serious and, as I said, is deteriorating. Since January of this year, at least 599 people were killed in violent incidents in Mali, according to the Office of the [United Nations] High Commissioner for Human Rights. The number of civilian casualties in the first quarter of this year already exceeds the number for the whole of last year. Violence has displaced more than 370,000 people, more than half of them in the Mopti region.
In Mopti, which I visited together with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, we saw first-hand the conditions of the internally displaced people living at Socoura IDP site, and how they try – as in all these tragic situations we see across the world – trying to sustain their uprooted lives. Parents struggling. One mother of six that I met said her husband had been abducted by an armed group.
She is able to run a small business with the support of humanitarian partners who provided her with help, with livestock, and thus some livelihood for her and her six children.
Armed groups with different affiliations are gaining more territory, restricting civilians’ freedom of movement, including their access to cultivate and harvest fields, cutting off their access to basic services. More shocking statistics: over 1,700 schools are closed due to insecurity, denying thousands of children their right to education.
The situation in and around the town of Ménaka – and Alain is very focused on this with his team – is of particular concern at the moment. Armed elements aligned with Da’esh have intensified attacks in the villages around the town. This has led to a massive spike in displacement increasing humanitarian needs. This is happening at the same time when some of the international military forces are withdrawing from the town. I am sure Alain will speak to this shortly and how humanitarian partners are scaling up.
What became very clear to me in many of the meetings and conversations I had with different actors is that in Mali – like in so many other parts of the world – women and girls are the hidden victims of this crisis. Many, many representatives of civil society, local NGOs, international NGOs told me about this, this crise cachée [hidden crisis] of women and girls. They face sexual violence, early marriages and denial of access. This crisis needs our special attention. We must do more to fund and protect these women and girls, who are already going through hell in displacement.
It is, however, the case that humanitarians are making a major difference in people’s lives, preventing an even deeper crisis from taking hold. But we could be doing more.
One recurring message from my meetings in Mali was that intensified resource mobilization and fundraising is essential.
Before my visit, the Secretary-General announced an allocation of $30 million for the Sahel from the Central Emergency Response Fund [CERF], including in that $8 million for Mali, to help scale up. This latest contribution brings to almost $95 million the funding channelled through the CERF to the Sahel since the beginning of the year.
Very, very fervent thank you to the donors whose contributions generously to the CERF makes this possible.
And I urge those donors and others to help fund the 2022 plan. Contributions through the Regional Humanitarian Pooled Fund will be particularly helpful, enabling us to boost localization, support local organizations, get closer to affected people.
I returned from Mali and the Sahel with a lot of concern about the outlook for where this devastating crisis is heading, and the impact it has on millions of people also in the region in Burkina Faso and Niger and indeed beyond, up north, and beyond where the north is.
It’s a fast-growing crisis. Over 13 million people need humanitarian assistance today in the Central Sahel. The expansion of violence to coastal countries such as Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire is no longer a risk, it’s a reality.
But there is a lot of hope. Hope for turning this around. For building on the potential of youth. For traditional ways of resolving conflicts at the community level through dialogue, agreements that I referred to earlier at cadre locale [local framework], to provide a basis for humanitarian delivery for people even in areas controlled by armed groups. That’s happening, and the diligence and the courage of those engaged in these processes needs to be recognized and supported.
And that leads me to my last point, that together we can work with those people, with the people of Mali, to change the narrative to deliver a peaceful, prosperous nation. Malians need us and we need to serve them with diligence and passion.
Thank you very much.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.