Due to armed conflicts, inter-community clashes and food shortages, Mali’s humanitarian situation continues to worsen. An estimated 3.9 million people (19.5% of the population) are affected by these crises. Insecurity has gradually spread from the northern part of the country to the centre and to the areas bordering Niger and Burkina Faso, which makes access to those areas increasingly dangerous for humanitarians.
Since 2018, Mali has seen a sharp increase in violence and insecurity, and serious violations of International Humanitarian Law. The fighting between warring groups, vying for control, was previously limited to the northern part of the country. It has now gradually spread to central Mali. Since early 2018, more than 400,000 people have been internally displaced and 254,000 people were newly displaced in 2019 alone; the majority of them cannot return due to the prevailing insecurity and lack of social services. Many more remain unreached in conflict-affected areas. In addition, there are nearly 138,000 Malians refugees in neighbouring countries, with Mali itself hosting 26,800 refugees.
There are 3.7 million people in north and central Mali who need of humanitarian aid, the majority of whom are children and women. Access to healthcare in most of the northern regions depends entirely on humanitarian aid. Education in Mali is increasingly under pressure with the closure of more than 920 schools. An estimated 276,000 children are out of school because of the different crisis situations.
The upheaval caused by conflicts is a major contributing factor to food shortages among vulnerable people. They have no choice but to abandon their homes, fields, and livestock to look for safety, and limited food resources are strained by erratic rain patterns.
Insecurity in Mali threatens humanitarian aid workers’ safety and hampers their access to the people in need. Security incidents affecting humanitarian non-governmental organisations have increased significantly over the past couple of years. In 2018, there were around 215 such incidents compared to 116 in 2016. So far in 2019, humanitarian organisations have faced 110 security incidents.
The EU is a major donor of assistance in Mali, providing more than €320 million in humanitarian aid in the country since the beginning of the crisis in 2012. In 2019, this aid amounts to €23.55 million and an additional €19.5 million is assisting Malian refugees living in the 3 neighbouring countries. Over and above this funding, Mali is also one of the beneficiary countries from a new aid package of €35 million for the Sahel that the EU released in November 2019. This funding aims to address rising humanitarian needs triggered by conflicts in the region.
EU humanitarian aid in Mali helps respond to the food crises triggered by conflict, drought, the difficult period between harvests (called the ‘lean season’), and high food prices. Whenever a conflict triggers a mass displacement of people, EU-funded aid organisations operating in Mali are equipped to react rapidly and provide vulnerably people with emergency shelter, food assistance, access to clean water and health, protection, and basic essential items. Cash transfers and vouchers enable people in need to buy what their household requires most. In addition, EU-funded projects provide education for children who can no longer go to school because of the unfolding humanitarian crises.
Most health services in the north and parts of central Mali are only running thanks to humanitarian organisations. In northern Mali, around half of the health facilities that deliver essential care and medicine are run by EU-funded humanitarian organisations.
Every year, the EU contributes to the treatment of severe acute malnutrition throughout the country. Funding goes towards the purchase and supply of therapeutic foods and essential medicine for children suffering from this most life-threatening form of undernourishment. The €76 million invested in nutritional care between 2011 and 2018 provided the necessary treatment to more than 600,000 severely malnourished children during that period.
To address the challenge of reaching inaccessible areas in the northern part of Mali, the EU operates its humanitarian air service, called ECHO flight, to carry humanitarian workers and transport relief assistance for the people in need. In addition, the EU also gives financial support to the UN’s Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).
EU humanitarian and development aid work together in Mali to ensure coordination between actions addressing vulnerable communities’ immediate humanitarian needs, the consequence of crises, and projects that tackle the root causes of crises. People in need are helped to withstand recurrent crises with time, making them less vulnerable in the future. As an example, in northern Mali, EU humanitarian aid provides food aid during the period between harvests, while EU development aid is working to build longer-term resilience in communities to food shortages.