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Life After Mali Peace Deals: More To Be Done

Taureg-led rebels finally signed a peace agreement in Mali after having their demands met by the government in Bamako. There have been four uprisings in Mali since they obtained independence from France in 1960.

As the country has endeavored to move towards the future, a disparity has arisen between the more prosperous south and the sparsely populated north.

This separation in progression between the north and south is partially due to the violence instigated by Islamists in the northern area of the region. According to the UN, 140,000 Malian refugees still live abroad and 49 people have lost their lives during the Mali peace deals.

However, just because a peace deal was agreed upon and signed, this does not mean the work is done. Due to the continued fighting in the north, everything from food to education is being threatened.

In Mali, an estimated 3.1 million people either do not have enough food or are lacking in nutritious foods. The climate has also been unfavorable in the region, causing an irregularity in rainfall and a disruption in normal planting cycles. In addition, over 54,000 Malians do not have access to clean, healthy drinking water as ponds and wells have dried up.

As for the children living in northern Mali, at least 715,000 are malnourished. To put this in perspective “the global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate was 12.4 percent and severe acute malnutrition (SAM) was 2.8 percent. In Timbuktu, where much of the fighting has taken place, these rates are 17.5 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively” (irinnews.org).

Education is also being severely threatened in the region as 450 schools have been forced to close affecting over 20,500 students. This disrupted the advancement of many students from one grade to another and eliminated any possibility of moving on to university.

For some, the lack of access to education has had another horrible side effect. Children are being lured into joining the army amid promises of education and/or wages to help their family. Worst yet, some join the army believing it is the only way to protect their family from other members of the forces.

When a peace deal is signed, many people not directly involved with the events and efforts of the country or region believe that all has been solved by the signatures on that piece of paper. But it is important to realize, that in violence and poverty stricken areas, a piece of paper is only the beginning of the solution.

Aid to northern Mali through organizations like UNICEF and the UN are essential in the continued promotion of peace, progress, and prosperity.

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: UN, IRIN News, BBC
Photo: Voa News