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West Africa update: Supporting people affected by Mali conflict

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This week sees the closure of our West Africa Food Crisis Appeal. However, with access to food remaining difficult – and conflict in Mali making humanitarian needs in the region worse – the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will continue to support people across the region.

The Movement has been working in west Africa for many years, and has been responding to the food crisis there since December 2011.

Unique access

While a food crisis is triggered by a number of factors, places with violence and unrest are among the most vulnerable. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), working with the Mali Red Cross and the Niger Red Cross, is able to work in areas where many other organisations cannot.

The ICRC has been providing food and essential household items to people, including displaced people and refugees. The Movement has also given people seeds, tools and training to help people improve their livelihoods. Since fighting resumed at the beginning of 2013, the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross have given help to more than 15,000 people in conflict-affected areas of northern Mali.

As well as giving £200,000 towards the Movement’s work in Burkina Faso and Senegal during the height of the 2012 food crisis, the British Red Cross also gave £250,000 to conflict-affected areas of Mali and Niger. These funds provided essential household items – tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, clothing, hygiene kits, buckets and kitchen sets – to more than 11,600 people.

Family links

The Mali conflict has displaced over 370,000 people inside and outside Mali, according to UN figures. Many families have been separated and scattered within Mali – and beyond its borders. Their situation has been exacerbated in recent days as telephone networks have been cut in the main towns in the north of the country.

The Movement is working in Mali and neighbouring countries to reunite family members. In the UK, the British Red Cross is also working to re-establish links between Malian nationals living in the UK and their loved ones affected by the fighting in the west African country.

Nev Jefferies, the British Red Cross head of international tracing and message services, said: “Our colleagues in the ICRC and regional National Societies are assisting Malians to restore contact and reunite. We too in the British Red Cross can help people in the UK to reconnect with their families affected by the fighting.”