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After Years of Conflict, New Crisis in Mali

At this time last year, France had just lead an intervention into Mali as Al-Qaeda militants had control over much of the country. The French sent troops in after the government became alarmed by the direction Mali was going. Within three weeks, the French had driven out many of the jihadists that had once seemed like they would take hold of the country.

While there are still worries about a remaining Al Qaeda presence in the region, the tumult that ensued in the last few years has severely affected the nation’s food situation. Many residents were displaced from the fighting and harvests have been disrupted as well.

Thus, a number of food programs have stated that 800,000 people are in need of “immediate food aid,” and that “three million people nationwide are at risk.”

Food shortages have been an ongoing problem amid the tumult going back to 2012.

This looks to be the largest crisis facing the country at the present time, yet the help that came last year to fight the jihadists has not been there to fight hunger. According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “the ‘lean’ season… will start early this year. The late arrival of rains, the low availability of cereal stocks… mean that people have not been able to recover.”

These factors, along with the instability that has been much publicized, has brought Mali to the food crisis they are now facing. It is up to organizations like The Borgen Project to raise the proper awareness about the food crisis. The United Nations appeal for help in the food situation was only able to raise half the funds it set out for.

The Oxfam director in Mali said, “We have to invest in agricultural and pastoral policies that… make people less vulnerable to shocks.”

The next few months will be very important for the future of Mali. It is just this sort of food crisis that could cause the desperation that allowed the jihadists to come into Mali previously. If the Western world identifies the issue beforehand, they will be able to save the money and resources that another intervention would entail. Mali is a banner example for the importance of foreign poverty relief, and the background of the past two years should weigh heavily on the work the West can do.

Eric Gustafsson

Sources: Trust.org, The Economist, ABC News, The Guardian
Photo: Voice of America