Mali conflict exacerbating food crisis

Fighting in Mali is compounding the ongoing food crisis in the Sahel, Christian Aid has warned.

The United Nations estimates the number of people displaced by the conflict to be over 200,000.

Christian Aid's Mali country director, Yacouba Kone, said the conflict and displacement of people were contributing to ever-rising levels of malnutrition.

"The current food crisis has already brought suffering to more than 18 million people across the region, and the more people are forced to flee the mounting military offensive in the north, the more market gardens are being abandoned and the less vegetables are being produced for child nutrition," he said.

The UN estimates that 4.2 million Malians will need emergency humanitarian assistance this year.

Some Malians have fled to neighbouring countries Burkina Faso and Niger to escape the violence.

Christian Aid is working through partners on the ground to provide humanitarian aid and assistance, including safe drinking water and food.

Kone said: "Any efforts to reduce long-term suffering in Mali must address the region's entrenched poverty and vulnerability to chronic food crises, by building resilient livelihoods."

He called for measures to be taken to ensure that Touareg and Arab communities are not targeted by the military because of their ethnicity and unsubstantiated rumours that they are protecting the rebels.

"We are now hearing reports that some Touareg and Arab community members are being attacked by Malian troops who may be seeking revenge for the atrocities committed by the rebels on January 2012 when many Malian soldiers were executed in Aguelhok, a military base in the Kidal Region of eastern Mali," he explained.

"All parties involved in the conflict must take the necessary measures to prevent harm to civilians, particularly women and children, as well as respecting the right of people in need to humanitarian aid and allowing rapid, safe and unimpeded passage to any agencies providing it."

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