Crisis in Mali: CRS Update

April 4, 2012 by

Catholic Relief Services in Mali today announced the temporary closure of one of its field offices in the town of Mopti as a result of an ongoing rebellion that intensified amid a military coup last month.

With increased rebel movements reported in the Mopti region and to ensure the safety of our staff, CRS made the decision to close its office there for a period of one week, pending improved security in the area.

Despite the temporary closure, CRS remains committed to serve the people of Mali and to continue its relief and development work in Mopti and Gao regions. That work includes education and agriculture, as well as nutrition and emergency food projects. CRS is equally committed to assisting those displaced by the conflict throughout Mali, as they arrive in areas away from active fighting.

CRS’ main office in the capital Bamako is still operational, all CRS staff there are safe, and activities outside the conflict zones are ongoing.

On March 21, military officers overthrew the democratically elected president in Bamako in an effort to take control of the government’s fight against a rebellion in the North. In recent days, the rebels – with the aim of creating an autonomous state in the North of Mali, a vast desert region – have taken over the three northern towns of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu, taking advantage of the instability caused by the coup. There remains a risk that the rebels advance further south.

The crisis in Mali comes amid a food emergency that has affected large swaths of the Sahel. A prolonged drought, high food prices and chronic poverty are affecting more than 16 million people throughout the region, including Mali. CRS is assisting Malian refugees in neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso with emergency water and sanitation services.

“The situation is unstable throughout northern Mali,” said Timothy Bishop, CRS Country Representative in Bamako. “We believe large numbers of displaced persons are trapped behind rebel lines, but without humanitarian access, the extent of the crisis can’t be known.”

CRS is deeply concerned about the current situation in Mali, and will take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our staff as the situation evolves. We call upon the international community to establish humanitarian corridors into Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu regions, including all areas of Mopti, so that aid may reach those displaced by the fighting.

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