Thousands of Displaced Children in Mali Face Food Shortages

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Washington, D.C. (Feb. 13, 2013)—Save the Children is warning that thousands of children displaced by the conflict in Mali face food shortages. These children were already suffering from the devastating food crisis even before being displaced, and require urgent humanitarian aid as their families cannot afford to buy enough food.

Save the Children estimates that 203,500 children fled their homes in the northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal since the outset of the conflict over a year ago. More than half of them have been displaced within the country, while the rest have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

"Thousands of children have had to flee their homes in terror after suffering months of extreme hunger and are now at risk," said Tom McCormack, Save the Children’s Country Director in Mali. "Children are still going hungry, with many cutting down on meals and some reduced to eating only rice. They need urgent help."

Displaced families have told Save the Children staff about their daily struggle to get by:

  • "Food is a problem. We don’t have money so we don’t have food. I only eat rice and gruel and am hungry," Amada, 13-year-old boy [Koutiala].
  • "The children tell me all the time they’re still hungry. We only have rice to eat, we can’t afford vegetables, we urgently need food," Zeinabou, 44, mother of seven children [Sikasso].
  • "It was really hard in Niger, especially because of the hunger. I was eating rice, only rice. It was expensive, and there wasn’t enough money to buy anything more," Maimouna, 15-year-old-girl [former refugee in Niger, recently displaced to Koutiala]. As the conflict begins to abate in some parts of the north, tens of thousands of displaced families are now faced with the difficult decision of whether to return home. But without assistance, Save the Children says that they face the prospect of returning completely destitute, many to houses and shops that have been destroyed and pillaged during the fighting.

Many will be forced to rebuild and replace what was stolen or damaged with no income or savings to do so. Making matters worse, the northern region is still affected by the food crisis, which has an impact on hundreds of thousands of children.

"While fighting dies down in some areas, the situation is far from stabilized and many families will remain displaced for weeks or even months to come. Those who do return home will face extreme difficulties in rebuilding their lives, and for all those affected by both the food crisis and the conflict, it is clear the road to recovery will be a long one," McCormack said. "We need to remember that even before the recent conflict or food crisis, Mali was already one of the poorest countries in the world."

Save the Children has been in Mali for 25 years and is now working to expand its existing protection, livelihoods and nutrition programs to meet the needs of displaced children who have arrived in Mopti, south of Gao and Kidal, as well as southern areas of the country such as Sikasso.

Save the Children is the leading independent organization for children in need, with programs in more than 120 countries, including the United States. We aim to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children, and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives by improving their health, education and economic opportunities. In times of acute crisis, we mobilize rapid assistance to help children recover from the effects of war, conflict and natural disasters. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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