2 August 2012
Conflict in Mali has led to 375,000 people fleeing for their lives prompting concerns of a long term humanitarian disaster.
People have left their homes and livelihoods to escape Islamist rebels, the most dominant and fundamentalist of which belong to a group called Ansar Dine who now control the north of the country and are now imposing their extreme interpretation of Sharia law.
As well as introducing some strict laws, such as banning the teaching of certain subjects in the school national curriculum, they have also destroyed tombs and shrines.
Mali, one of the world’s poorest states, is in the grip of a hunger crisis which is affecting the wider Sahel region of West Africa. Some 1.6 million people live in northern Mali, an area suffering from severe food shortages.
The conflict is worsening this situation as many aid agencies, including Tearfund partners, are unable to access affected areas due to insecurity and local people are unable to get food at markets.
Struggling to survive
Five Tearfund partners in Mali are assessing how they can respond to the unfolding crisis.
Many of those who have fled fighting are now trying to survive further south in Mali in host communities, although others are in camps.
Martin Jennings, Tearfund’s Head of West & Central Africa Region, said, ‘Stories from partners talk of people struggling for food and to meet other basic needs. As the food situation deteriorates in northern Mali, and it will, more and more will choose to leave. The numbers are very significant.’
Tearfund and its partners recently visited a camp where displaced people are living and encountered many who had lost their livelihoods and were concerned about the uncertainty facing their future.
Moderate Muslims, Christians and other groups spoke of fleeing in fear of the imposition of this strict form of sharia law. Among those at the camp were pastors who reported that most known Christians had left the north.