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Thousands of Children Unreachable by Emergency Aid in Mali

Mali is on the verge of a major humanitarian crisis, the global organization Plan International has warned. Tens of thousands of displaced people together with those trapped in the conflict areas are unreachable. In addition, the conflict is preventing farmers from sowing the 2013 crop. As a result of these events, there are fears that up to two million people will be affected by a food crisis this year.

According to the UN, an estimated 10,000 people have fled since the fighting began on January 10, 2013. Approximately 376,000 people have been displaced since the crisis began in March of 2012. Of this, almost a quarter of a million people have been internally displaced and the remainder of these people have fled to neighboring countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso.

As fighting continues, aid agencies are expecting the number of displaced people to rise to nearly three-quarters of a million in the coming months.

“The newly displaced need almost everything. They need food, shelter, water, sanitation, and psychological support. We need adequate funding to be able to scale up our response as the numbers go up,” Plan Mali’s Emergency Response Manager Anthonin Ngarukiye said.

Plan International has been responding to the humanitarian needs of the internally displaced people in Mali through the distribution of emergency kits and by providing psychological support, protection, and education services to children impacted by the conflict. An emergency kit consists of basic needs items such as towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste, rubber slippers, paracetamol, and mosquito nets.

Plan is also concerned about the impact of the conflict on food availability.

Plan Mali Country Director William Michelet said the fighting is interfering with agricultural activities and crop production.

“Farmers usually start preparing their fields in February however in the current climate it means that many of them are not able to work and this will have a big impact on food production,” he said.

Before the military action began more than two million people were at risk of food insecurity in Mali. It is estimated that 660,000 children are now at risk of acute malnutrition and about 1.5 million people are at risk of epidemics due to poor water and sanitation conditions in northern Mali.

“Time is of the essence,” said Dr Unni Krishnan, Head of Disaster Response and Preparedness at Plan International.

“Displaced people, especially children are impacted both physically and psychologically. Along with lifesaving measures such as water and health care, emotional first aid and recreational activities should be taken up immediately,” he added.

Plan’s experience at working in such humanitarian situations shows that relief work that balances provision of life saving needs such as food, water, and psychosocial support helps to hasten children’s recovery.

Over the next six months, Plan’s emergency response operation is estimated to cost 3.2 million dollars.

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