Mali: Church Urges International Help as Crisis Unfolds

Church in Mali urges international help as crisis unfolds |  Caritas Mali, Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako,</p><br /><br /> <p>

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French and African troops are trying to prevent Islamic rebels who have taken control of northern Mali from advancing further.

Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako said: “A new period of suffering is beginning for the people of Mali. We would welcome support so that we can help the increasing number of displaced and refugees.”

Reports say up to 400,000 people have fled their homes either to southern Mali or to neighbouring countries since the rebels began advancing from the north last year. Some 18 million people lived through a severe food crisis in the region last year. It is feared that influxes of refugees will deplete low food supplies in some countries.

“People will increasingly need food, drinking water, hygiene kits, anti-malarials and other items to cover their basic needs as the situation worsens. Here we’re in the cold season, and it is also damp. This makes the humanitarian situation even more complicated,” says Archbishop Zerbo.

Caritas Mali continues to work on development projects in unaffected areas and has been monitoring the situation. Insecurity means that it is extremely difficult for humanitarian agencies to operate. The Caritas office in Mopti has been closed for the past week because of intensive fighting in the surrounding area.

French airstrikes started in the north of Mali a week ago. A ground offensive has now begun with the help of African troops. The UN says that at least 30,000 people have abandoned their homes over the past few days. A small percentage have gone to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. Ninety percent of those fleeing are women.