BAMAKO, Mali, March 21, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The UN World Food Programme (WFP) today launched an emergency operation in the Gao region of Mali for the country’s internally displaced people.
“We are appealing to the humanitarian community for urgent assistance for the internally displaced population as the lean season may start as early as April this year,” said WFP Mali Country Director Nancy Walters.
Since January, conflict in northern Mali has resulted in major population displacements both within Mali and to neighbouring countries. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of internally displaced is currently around 95,000 people.
The population movement comes as Mali, like other countries in the Sahel area of West Africa, is already facing large deficits in food production and sharp increases in food prices.
The emergency operation has two main components: the prevention of acute malnutrition among children 6 to 59 months old and targeted food distributions for the displaced and most vulnerable populations.
Earlier this month a mission led by WFP’s Deputy Executive Director Ramiro Lopes da Silva and including representatives of the government, UN agencies, donors and NGOs, met in Gao to meet the local authorities and to make an urgent evaluation of the displaced population’s needs. Pending the development of a government response plan, the mission recommended an immediate intervention.
WFP with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Malian Red Cross and other partners, will provide food assistance to the displaced population in Mali over the next 6 months in the regions of Gao, Tombouctou and Kida. The emergency operation will be implemented together with local authorities and international NGOs. In total, WFP will provide food assistance to more than a million people in Mali, including those affected by the drought.