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European Commission - Press release

Commissioner Georgieva warns of possible humanitarian disaster in northern Mali

Brussels, 11 April 2012 - Unless there is rapid progress in the coming days to open the humanitarian space and allow in supplies of food and medicines to northern Mali, there will be a major humanitarian disaster which could spill over to neighbouring countries, warns Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. The European Commission is giving an additional €9 million to respond to the new humanitarian needs in northern Mali, but fighting and insecurity are hindering aid delivery to those most in need.

Violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of people either within northern Mali (the estimated number of internally displaced persons exceeds 100,000) or over the borders in neighbouring states, mostly Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso (around 136,000 refugees in total). Those who remain in their homes have diminishing access to basic services and goods and are exposed to attacks and human rights abuses. 

Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said: "Many among the displaced were already on the edge of survival due to the Sahel food crisis. I fear that the recent violence will exacerbate further the food emergency both in northern Mali and in neighbouring countries where refugees are flowing to areas of acute food insecurity. This is why the Commission is stepping up our humanitarian aid to those forced to flee the conflict.

"But our capacity to respond quickly to the growing needs is limited by insecurity. I call upon all parties involved in the fighting to respect the rights of civilians and International Humanitarian Law and to give unhindered access for humanitarian workers to those in need," Commissioner Georgieva underlined.

The new emergency aid funding aims to scale up the delivery of food, medicines, water and sanitation to the most vulnerable displaced civilians in northern Mali and in neighbouring countries. It will be channelled through UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and international NGOs.

"Europe continues our massive humanitarian operation throughout the Sahel. We are determined to prevent the food crisis from turning into a disaster – and I am confident that our aid will save millions of lives and help bring relief in the worst affected areas," Commissioner Georgieva pledged.

This €9 million of funding comes on top of the over €280 million which the Commission has mobilised to address the food crisis that is affecting eight countries of the West Africa region. Mali is one of the worst-affected with 1.4 million people now in need of emergency food assistance.


Since January, fighting in northern Mali has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. Last month, following violence and political upheaval in Mali's capital, Bamako, the European Commission suspended all bi-lateral development aid to Mali that flows through the government. However, neutral, impartial and politically independent, the Commission's humanitarian aid continues direct to the populations in need despite the growing challenges.

Meanwhile, Mali is struggling with a chronic malnutrition problem, exacerbated by the 2011 drought which caused a food crisis throughout the Sahel region.

Addressing the needs of the displaced population in the Sahel is rendered difficult by the fact that some places where they have fled in Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso are very isolated and getting aid there presents serious logistical challenges. In addition, due to the food crisis the resources of humanitarian aid agencies are already stretched to their limits.

For more information


Commissioner Georgieva's website:

The European Commission's humanitarian aid:

Factsheet on the Sahel food crisis

Contacts :

David Sharrock (+32 2 296 89 09)

Irina Novakova (+32 2 295 75 17)

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