Mali: Aid is being rushed to hungry families

Mali: Aid is being rushed to hungry families | Bishop Georges Fonghoro of Mopti, Aid to the Church in Need, ACN, Mali

displaced families – image ACN

Emergenciy food and medicine is being sent to hundreds of stricken families in Mali who have fled their homes to escape the fighting. Young children are already reported to be suffering from malnutrition.

A grant, totalling £34,000 was announced by Aid to the Church in Need on Friday, is being administered by Mopti Catholic diocese, southern Mali, a region where thousands of people have been displaced by war in the land-locked west Saharan country.

One of the world’s poorest nations, Mali is locked in a battle for supremacy after Islamists seized the north, prompting a French military retaliation earlier this month. With reports of the impending French-led international air and ground offensive against the Islamists, last week Church leaders warned of the need to act quickly in case the violence intensifies.

Bishop Georges Fonghoro of Mopti told ACN: “In the past months people have suffered enormously, especially in the north of the country. Many have fled to escape the violence.”  The bishop, whose diocese contains 40,000 Catholics, added: “We are dealing now with displaced people. The situation has calmed down even though a state of emergency was extended by three months. People are still afraid to return to their villages.”

Stressing how mothers and children are particularly lacking food, the bishop said: “The needs are enormous, the situation of the people both in the countryside and the cities is precarious and requires us to act immediately.”

The aid comes on top of emergency aid given to Mali last year, again helping displaced people.

The crisis broke nearly a year ago when Mali’s army staged a coup prompting Islamist militants and secular rebels to extend their control to the whole of the north, an area of the Sahara Desert larger than France. With the army putting up very little resistance, France carried out airstrikes in cities in the rebel-held north while working jointly with Malian troops to recapture Diabaly, Konna and Douentza, all close to Mopti.

Last weekend, Aid to the Church in Need received an account of the people’s suffering from a missionary priest reporting on the lead-up to the liberation of strategically important Diabaly and Konna a week ago.

Fr Zacharie Sorgho, whose parish of Nioro du Sahel in western Mali, has welcomed people fleeing the conflict, described the events, saying: “One morning there was an armed assault [by Islamist rebels] in the city of Konna… and other southern cities.

“This created a great fear in the city and everyone was in a state of confusion. People were fleeing and there were cries of despair.  After the intense fighting, Konna was freed from the hands of the jihadist Muslims. But then they attacked Diabaly and took it. They used people as human shields.”