African Press Organization
2012-07-26 GENEVA, Switzerland, July 26, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Concluding a three-day mission in Mali, John Ging, OCHA Director of Operations, called for immediate international attention to the country's serious humanitarian crisis which is driven by severe food insecurity, malnutrition, large-scale population displacement and widespread insecurity.
"The humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly because of the inadequacy of the response. The situation in Mali is desperate, but not hopeless," Mr. Ging said after meeting with Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra in the capital Bamako.
"There needs to be a paradigm shift in the way the humanitarian response is funded. We can avoid a disaster, but only if the opportunities for a quick scaling up of the response are not missed,” he added.
More than 420,000 people have already been displaced within Mali or fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. These countries are among the most severely affected by the food and nutrition crisis raging across the Sahel region and putting 18 million lives at risk. In Mali alone, 4.6 million people are affected by the food security crisis, and 175,000 children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF.
In a field visit to displacement camps in Mopti in the North, Mr. Ging heard first-hand the harrowing and traumatic stories of violence against women and children who had fled their homes.
Mr. Ging told reporters that "there appears to be a misconception that without a solution to the security and political crisis in the north of the country, little can be done to scale up the humanitarian response. In fact, 80 per cent of the country's humanitarian needs are in the South, where there is relative stability".
A sizeable humanitarian response is under way in the North despite limited access caused by insecurity.
"Remarkable work is being done by national and international NGOs in the North. They have been creative in overcoming many obstacles to access the people in need, and their humanitarian interventions are stemming further mass displacement. However, the lack of funding is now hampering a scale-up," Mr. Ging stressed. Out of the US$214 million currently required for the humanitarian response in Mali, only 42 per cent has been received.
Health, education, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are the most critically underfunded sectors. These sectors receive large development funding but urgent humanitarian needs generated by the displacement crisis remain underfunded. This can quickly lead to the outbreak of epidemics like cholera, which is threatening to spread throughout West Africa.
The failure to address the education needs of the displaced children also put at risk their economic potential due to the prolonged disruption of education and the psychological effects of the trauma they have suffered.
During meetings with Government Ministers, Mr. Ging commended their efforts and cooperation in addressing the humanitarian crisis.