Existing chronic food insecurity in Mali was compounded by three years of low rainfall, reducing the availability of food and increasing food prices beyond the reach of the poor. Mali is on the frontline of climate-related emergencies today.
The UN Human Development Index ranks the country at 182 out of 187 countries. In 2013, environmental challenges were aggravated by armed conflict, as rebels and militant Islamists took over the north of the country and imposed a brutal form of Sharia law.
French troops, the African Union and UN peacekeeping forces took back control of the territory, but only after months of violence. The dual destabilising effects of extreme weather and conflict resulted in many people having to leave their homes in search of food and safety. In their search for survival they created new competition for, and conflict over, already scarce resources.
During 2013, the number of internally displaced people rose to more than 350,000, and the number of Malian refugees moving into Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria rose to more than 180,000.
Our members came together to help the displaced people in camps in the south of Mali, those in and around the capital Bamako, and the people who were slowly returning to the north as the violence subsided. We supported people with food, education, health, essential non-food items such as blankets, hygiene kits and mosquito nets, water and sanitation and psychosocial work.
Philippe Bassinga, an ACT member manager for the Sahel crisis, described how ACT had helped people returning to the country: “Returning refugees and displaced persons can access food. It’s on the market,” he said.
“But they don’t have money to buy what’s on the market. So we’ve had to combine our response to the conflict with our response to food insecurity in the Sahel. That means helping people better manage their assets, such as food and livestock, but also providing cash through direct transfer programmes and cash-for-work opportunities.”