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Mali conditions deteriorating - Red Cross

2012-10-16 20:20

Geneva - Fighting, flooding and soaring food prices have worsened the humanitarian situation in northern Mali, where 420 000 people have begun to receive vital aid, the Red Cross said on Tuesday.

"Not only are people struggling with the effects of armed conflict, but recent flooding has destroyed crops and sent food prices soaring," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement.

To help the neediest, the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross have distributed food in Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal and Mopti, the Geneva-based aid agency said.

The announcement comes after the ICRC made its third appeal this year to help the bow-tie shaped nation, calling for an additional €21m in September.

Mali, along with the rest of the Sahel region, has seen millions go hungry after poor rains last year.

Those in need "have completely exhausted all their reserves," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC regional delegation for Mali and Niger.

"We will cover their immediate needs, preserve their livelihoods and determine what actions should be taken to support their coping mechanisms," he added in the statement.

Torrential rains had caused a number of deaths and enormous material damage, the Red Cross said, citing nearly 4 000 victims in need of everything from tarpaulins to clothing and food.

The rainy season had also caused a spike in the number of malaria cases in the north of the country, the ICRC said.

Of nearly 1 500 outpatient visits in September at the Gao regional hospital, more than 30% concerned cases of malaria, it said.

Northern Mali was seized by Islamist and Tuareg rebels in the chaos following a military coup in Bamako on 22 March.

Since the fighting finished at the end of March, the Islamists have chased out the Tuareg and exerted their control on a desert region larger than France, implementing strict Islamic law and destroying ancient World Heritage shrines they consider idolatrous.