Food Running Out for Refugees from Mali Conflict

25 April 2012 -The hunger crisis in the Sahel region of Africa continues to escalate, with thousands of refugees from Mali possibly running out of food within weeks.

A conflict in northern Mali, along with drought conditions, have forced thousands of people to flee to safety in Mauritania and other neighboring countries. But that safety depends on humanitarian aid from the international community.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is feeding over 56,000 of these refugees in Mauritania. However, WFP warns that by the 15th of May they will run out of supplies. Their refugee relief mission is facing a funding shortage of $11.4 million. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations from the international community.

Around 1,000 refugees arrive daily in Mauritania. With the conflict in Mali far from resolved, things could get much worse.

A rebel group called the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) recently seized power in Northern Mali. The U.S. State Department said earlier this month that "a separate Azawad state will only exacerbate the grave problems challenging the Malian state. We also call on the MNLA to cease all military operations. We urge all armed groups to engage in dialogue with civilian leaders in Bamako (the capital of Mali) to find a nonviolent path forward for national elections and a peaceful coexistence."

Until a peace process can move forward, more Malians will flee. This will put even more stress on Mauritania and other host countries. WFP says the refugee crisis has put a "great strain on host communities of the Hodh Echargui," an area of Mauritania where 37 percent of the population is regarded as "food insecure." Mauritania, even without this refugee crisis, is facing severe hunger because of drought conditions. WFP is also lacking funds to aid Hodh Echargui as well as other areas of the country.


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