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By Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, Head of Caritas Internationalis Delegation to the UN in Geneva On 02 July 2012, Floriana Polito and I had the pleasure of convening some influential figures in the fight against hunger and poverty. Caritas Internationalis, together with Oxfam, held an important side event focused on human rights in the context of the food crisis in the Sahel region of Africa; it was held at the Palais des Nations in conjunction with the 20th Session of the UN Human Rights.
Fears are growing over the humanitarian situation in northern Mali. Some 268,000 people have now fled northern areas seized last month by Tuareg rebels and Islamists. “The humanitarian situation in northern Mali is worsening day by day,” said Fr. Edmond Dembele, Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Mali. “Food and medicine are increasingly rare, because grocery stores, hospitals and health centres were ransacked by the rebels.” Rebels have declared an independent state across a huge swathe land, roughly the same size as France. “We try to establish humanitarian corridors, but in the absence of an agreement with the rebel movements, for the moment nothing has been done,” said Fr. Dembele. “The population in the north of Mali continue to flee to neighbouring countries or in the south of the country.”
Caritas Mali says its local office in Gao in northern Mali was destroyed along with the local church after Tuareg rebels seized the city at the weekend.
Despite the conflict in the north and a coup last month, Caritas Mali says its operations providing desperately needed food aid to the rest of the country continue.
The Tuareg rebels have seized three regional capitals in as many days. The main rebel group is the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). They are operating alongside the Islamist group Ansar Edine, who have links to Al Qaeda’s north African branch.
Fr Jean-Jacques, director of Caritas Gao said, “Caritas staff fled Gao on Saturday. We learned from our guard today that the centre and the church compound have been destroyed.
“We have received calls from the small Catholic community left in Gao. They are now in hiding, fearing for their lives.”
Fr Jean-Jacques says there are […]
What is the humanitarian situation in West Africa’s Sahel region?
More than 12 million people will face acute food shortages in the Sahel region of West Africa unless early and effective action is taken now to prevent the crisis.
People in Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad are already suffering from a lack of food with the ‘lean’ season still to come. In the worst affected areas, people have already started to ration food to one meal a day, sell off cattle or leave their farms for urban centres.
We must not wait until there are images of starving children on our TV screens. By acting now we can ensure the food crisis does not deteriorate.
What has led to a food crisis in West Africa?
Poor rains and drought last year and pest infestation means this year’s harvest will not produce enough food. A spike in regional food prices has left people […]
More than 12 million people in West Africa are threatened with food shortages. Caritas says action is needed now.
A poor harvest in 2011 and high food prices risks pushing the people in the Sahel belt stretching across Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso and Senegal over the edge.
With the hunger season still to come, people across the region have already switched to survival measures such as rationing food, selling off cattle and leaving their farms to urban centres to find food.
It is one of the most under-developed regions in the world even at the best of times with the lives of over 200,000 children lost each year as a result of poverty.
Caritas in action
The Caritas confederation of over 160 Catholic aid agencies is mobilising to meet their needs in this large scale humanitarian emergency.
Caritas works through its national members and the church on the ground. Appeals have been launched […]
Nick Harrop is a writer for Cafod (Caritas England and Wales). He has just return from a mission in Niger and give his first impression on the food crisis growing up in the country. During the last few days, I’ve had the chance to ask several people in Niger how this year’s food crisis compares with previous ones. They’ve all said the same thing: it’s the worst one they can remember. Mintou, a grandmother living in a village about three hours’ drive from the capital, said: “There was one year when it was very bad, which we call ‘kantchakalague’. Maybe we can compare this year that that one. But I think this year is worse.” “Does ‘kantchakalgue’ mean famine?” I asked Tchadi from our partner CADEV (Caritas Niger), who was translating. “No, not famine,” he said. “Literally, it means tiredness, thinness, a time when people are thin and animals are […]
By Helen Blakesley and Caritas Internationalis staff American Caritas member Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Niger (SECADEV) and its partners are mobilising emergency water, hygiene and sanitation facilities to meet the urgent needs of thousands of Malian refugees in neighbouring Niger. Fighting in northern Mali between the army and a rebel group has forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes. Nearly half have stayed in Mali, and the others have crossed borders seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. According to the United Nations, around 25,000 people have crossed into Niger since the end of January—two-thirds of them Malian refugees and a third, Nigeriens. An estimated 500 people are arriving every day. Most of the refugees are living in open-air shelters made of blankets stretched over sticks. They face extreme temperatures—the heat of the day and then cold at night—in the Sahelien desert zone. Many came on foot, leaving behind most […]
“The sound of gunfire woke us up,” said Mr Mahmouda, who fled his village in Mali after it came under attack from rebels. “Although we were not directly threatened, we were scared. We took all we could carry and fled in the direction of Niger,” he told Caritas Niger.
Some 120,000 people have been forced out of their homes in Mali as conflict flares in three out of eight provinces. The fighting comes as the Sahel region of West Africa faces a food crisis predicted to leave more than 10 million people hungry this year.
A small number of Tuareg-led rebels re-ignited their rebellion last month. Bolstered by fighters and weapons spilling out of last year’s conflict in Libya, the rebels, known as the MNLA, have launched a series of attacks against military outposts. The government, which also faces elections and the food crisis, is struggling to respond.
More than 60,000 people […]
Après la Corne de l’Afrique, c’est la région du Sahel qui est à nouveau confrontée à une crise alimentaire croissante. En 2010, 10 millions de personnes avaient déjà été affectées par une grave crise alimentaire. Cette année, on note des baisses importantes des productions agropastorales dans certaines zones du Sahel. Alors que les prix alimentaires sont élevés, cette situation compromet fortement l’accès à la nourriture des ménages les plus pauvres.
Caritas Internationalis suit de près la situation avec le Groupe de Travail sur le Sahel. L’objectif est d’établir une stratégie commune d’intervention susceptible d’orienter le travail de tous les membres de la confédération impliqués dans la région.
Des évaluations approfondies des besoins sont en cours dans les différents pays de la région. Caritas Internationalis est en communication constante avec Caritas Niger, Caritas Mali et Caritas Burkina Faso les trois pays les plus exposés à la crise. Le travail a donc déjà […]
In Tinzawaten there’s next to nothing to eat or drink, the houses are roofless shells, it’s freezing at night, scorching in the day, murder and rape go unpunished, women are sold as slaves and babies are born in the open.
This is the desert of Mali. The people of Tinzawaten are migrants who’ve been deported from Algeria, shoved across the border and dumped with nothing.
The harrowing scene is described by Fr Jerome Otitoyomi Dukiya at a conference organised by the Caritas Internationalis General Secretariat and Caritas Senegal in Saly, Senegal. Fr Jerome said, “Algeria signed an agreement with the EU in exchange for financial and development aid that migrants would only be returned to their own countr y. The deal doesn’t mean abandoning them to years of limbo in places like Tinzawaten. But who’s making a fuss about it?”
Caritas is. It is advocating for full legal protection for migrants, especially […]
Food emergencies are not inevitable in the Sahel according to Caritas. The region and the international community need to show greater political will to fight the problems.
“The recurrent food crises are essentially a political problem, worsened of course by droughts and difficult natural conditions “, said Fr. Ambroise Tine, Secretary General of Caritas Senegal.
The Sahel could face a devastating food crisis this year. Millions are at risk of famine and malnutrition in West Africa, especially in Niger, Chad, northern Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria.
Experts believe that the coming emergency could be particularly serious, mostly because of the bad harvest and floods in several countries last year.
“The governments of the Sahel countries are not doing enough to fight the problems, especially the lack of water supply and price speculations on the markets. Competition caused by massive agriculture subsidies in developed countries only worsens our problems”, said Fr. Tine.
At the end […]