WHD 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New video to raise awareness on the Sahel crisis, featuring David Guetta´s song "Without You"


Over 10 million people are facing hunger in the Sahel. Join us, @David Guetta and @United Nations Foundation in reminding the world that every life matters. Watch their new video and spread the word! We can’t do it withoutyou

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Mali Crisis: A Young Mom’s Story

By Helen Blakesley, West and Central African regional information officer for CRS

Djélika pushes a plaited braid off her face and hitches her five month-old son higher onto her hip.

She leans down to look into the metal pot that’s simmering on the wood stoked stove, placed on the kitchen floor.

Cooking has been her main occupation since they left Timbuktu. Since they fled in fear for their lives.

The day the rebels came, Djélika was sitting in the classroom with the other students, as she always did. Listening carefully to the teacher. It was her favorite lesson, physics and chemistry.

Then the gunshots started, startling the teenagers sitting in their neat rows behind their desks. The rebels weren’t far away. Their stray bullets were finding innocent victims in the small school building. Some students fainted, others hid, still others were hit—and a number died.

Djélika Haïdara with 5 month-old Ousmane
Credit: Helen Blakesley/CRS
Djélika was pregnant at the time. A newly wed bride carrying her first son. She knew she had to get out. She slipped out of the classroom, skirted the building and ran to the back wall. She managed to pull herself up and over and kept on running.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Crisis in Mali disrupting schooling of 700,000 children


 By UN News Centre

The education of some 700,000 children in Mali has been disrupted due to the violence in the country, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said last week, adding that there is an urgent need to rebuild schools, train teachers and provide learning supplies.

A student writes on a chalkboard at a school in Bamako, Mali. Credit: UNICEF/Tanya Bindra

Northern Mali has been occupied by radical Islamists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.

Since the violence began over a year ago, at least 115 schools in the north were closed, destroyed, looted and sometimes contaminated with unexploded ordnance. Of the 700,000 children affected, 200,000 still have no access to school, UNICEF said in a news release.

Many teachers were among those displaced and have not returned to the northern part of the country. Instead, they are working in the already overcrowded schools in the south, which cannot cope with the amount of displaced students from the north.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Photo Story

Mali: Musicians raising hope to help end the humanitarian crisis

By John Bosch, Film Director Sahel Calling project in Mali (Bamako)


Ahmed sings on Bassekou's track, "Essakane", at Studio Bogolan, in Bamako

Every day here in Bamako is an opportunity to look, learn, and most importantly, to listen. In listening, we realize that Earth's citizens' deepest concerns and fears are shared by all individuals on the planet. There are basic needs that must be met, and a secure environment is necessary in order to try and meet them. In Mali, extreme poverty is so ubiquitous it wants to be filtered out. It feels terrible to have 200,000 CFAs in your pocket, yet unable to really help a kid with a stump leg on crutches begging at your car window.

You see these people, as in every country I've been to and in the city I live in, trying to survive on the kindness of strangers and the mercy of God. Here the scale of poverty is massive.
And yet everywhere in Bamako, you see people doing incredible work with very little means.

Our daily routine is to walk a couple minutes to the main road and hail a yellow cab, most often a beat up yet reliable old Mercedes driven by a dude -- the "taximan" -- with his name and license number written in white ink on the dashboard. It's great when you can get a car that has window handles, but at least the driver's window is always down.  Most often there is music blasting, and we've been keeping track of our drivers' diverse music of choice. [Last night, DMX and Ruff Ryderz. Days prior: Celine Dion, Salif Keita, Arabic-sounding pop music, etc]

Fishing longboats on the River Niger.

So yesterday morning we leave the house at 7am, toting our gear, en route to the main road to hail a taximan. We heading down to the riverbank to catch the morning rays, or "magic hour" in the parlance of movie-making.

On the corner of our street there's a vacant lot, and a small group of three workers were building perfectly-shaped cinderblocks with their hands and a few simple tools in the pleasant morning sun.
When we returned, they had made enough for a building foundation.

Our focus being on musicians, we are seeking out singers, songwriters, and players who find a way to work everyday, even if for nothing. They are playing music and singing songs to keep their culture's soul aloft, as music is the heartbeat of the Malian universe,
and without music, Mali will die, plain and simple. Just as importantly, they are thinking deeply about their country's situation, and responding intelligently and passionately to questions we ask regarding their deepest concerns.

Last night, Ahmed from the Tamishek band Amanar (the word meaning "north star") tells us one of his recent stories.  One day, recently, when he was away from his home in Kidal, bandits claiming to be Muslim stormed into his house demanding to know where the electric guitars were. Ahmed's sister claimed ignorance, but the intruders found the guitars and other music gear, took them out into the street, and burned them.

We're not talking about ritualistic sacrifice to a peaceful, psychedelic God here, a la Jimi Hendrix. This is brutal language of control and violence toward another person's sacred possessions and means of livelihood.

After the burning, they conveyed a message to Ahmed through his sister: return home, continue to play music, and we will teach you that you are not "using your hands to pray" to god in the correct way. We will cut off your hands. Or return, and we will show you how to be a leader of a mosque, in the correct way. But you must first do just as we tell you.

As a musician and guitarist myself, I must truly admit I have never experienced concerns as deep as these, and therefore, perhaps my original statement doesn't hold up. All of us in the world don't share all of the same concerns. Some of us face threats that only in a nightmare could our imagination conjure.

Click here to see the photos!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Northern Mali: Doctors of the World opens a health facility at Tinzawaten for displaced people from Kidal 

By  Marie-Anne Robberecht, Press Officer in Doctors of the World (Belgium)

The last few days have seen a constant influx of displaced families to the village of Tinzawaten, 300km north-east of Kidal, close to the Mali-Algeria border. Doctors of the World has opened a health facility to provide nutritional and medical aid to the thousands of people arriving at the site in desperate need.

“The number has tripled from 400 to 1,200 families in less than a week – that’s 6,000 people – and there’s no sign of the flow drying up”, explains Olivier Vandecasteele, Doctors of the World Desk Officer for Mali. “They are mainly women, children and the elderly. Since the journey from Kidal takes two days, they are arriving in a state of extreme distress.”
Our teams report that the new arrivals are living in very difficult conditions. “As the sun beats down, dozens of them squeeze in under trucks in their search for shade, while others have no form of shelter whatsoever”, says Vandecasteele.
Crédit: Médecins du Monde

For over a week now Doctors of the World has been providing the displaced people in Tinzawaten with nutritional and medical aid. Assistance is being given at a fast pace, with more than 300 medical consultations for the prevention and treatment of illness and disease already conducted. 

“Population movements, overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions greatly increase the risk of epidemics”, warns Vandecasteele. This concern is compounded by the fact that cases of measles have been reported in the refugee camps on the other side of the border in Algeria.

Continuing efforts are, however, being made to deal with the situation. “Additional medical teams have arrived and, despite the major logistical challenges, several tons of supplies are on their way to Kidal”, says Vandecasteele.

For more information:

Olivier Vandecasteele, Desk Officer for Mali: +32 490 11 49 91

Marie-Anne Robberecht, Press Officer: +32 493 25 49 09

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Doctors of the World  is a medical NGO which has been active in Mali for over ten years. Since the beginning of the crisis, teams have worked continuously to ensure access to healthcare and nutrition for over 200,000 people from the Gao and Kidal regions. Doctors of the World is an independent organisation which operates according to the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

ECHO´s new ebook

2012 Sahel Food & Nutrition Crisis: response by ECHO & partners

Together with its partners, The European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) contributed to the early recognition of the 2012 food and nutrition crisis and to formulating an adequate response. In total, ECHO mobilized €173 million for the food and nutrition crisis, in addition to €58 million to address needs arising from the Mali conflict. This was the highest ever envelope allocated to humanitarian aid in the Sahel by ECHO, more than three times the amount in 2011 and twice the amount mobilized during the last nutrition crisis in 2010.

This document provides a summary of ECHO´s response to the 2012 Sahel food & nutrition crisis as well as a non exhaustive illustration of some of the work that was achieved thanks to its partners.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Interview with David Gressly, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel


By the United Nations Regional Information Center for Western Europe (UNRIC)

What does food security mean? How serious is the situation right now in the Sahel? How does the military intervention affect the humanitarian situation?

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mali: Drinking water a priority in north


The humanitarian situation in northern Mali is still a source of concern. Displaced persons in the north-east corner of the country lack food and water. The ICRC and the Mali Red Cross are working to help people who have been affected by the conflict.

"The country is facing a difficult humanitarian situation," said Jean Nicholas Marti, the head of the ICRC regional delegation for Mali and Niger. "In the northern region, access to drinking water is still a big worry for recently displaced people in Tinzawatene, close to the Algerian border and in some other towns such as Ménaka, Timbuktu or Gao."

Aid distribution site Konna, Mali
Credit: ICRC

Teams of relief workers from the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross have handed out jerrycans and water purification tablets to almost 5,400 displaced persons in Tinzawatene. They are also repairing wells in the Akharabane and Achibriche areas, which are also near to the Algerian border, where there has been an influx of displaced persons. The situation is particularly worrying because residents are having to share their meagre resources with the newcomers.

Friday, February 15, 2013

L’OIM au secours de migrants tchadiens en détresse expulsés de Libye

Par l´Organisation Internationale pour les migrations (OIM)

Tchad – L’OIM a distribué de la nourriture, de l’eau et des médicaments à un groupe de 32 migrants tchadiens arrivés la semaine dernière au bureau de l’OIM à Faya-Largeau, dans une région reculée au nord du Tchad, après avoir été expulsés de Libye.

Credit: OIM

Depuis juillet dernier, trois groupes de migrants tchadiens ont été expulsés de Libye. Plus de 150 000 travailleurs migrants tchadiens avaient déjà quitté le pays en 2011, après le renversement du régime précédent.

Epuisés et malades, les membres du groupe, tous des hommes, ont expliqué à l’OIM qu’ils travaillaient dans différents endroits en Libye, occupant généralement des emplois temporaires peu et non qualifiés. Ils ont dit qu’ils avaient été détenus, et certains ont affirmé avoir été maltraités.

Ils ont déclaré que par le passé, en tant que ressortissants tchadiens, ils n’avaient pas besoin de documents pour vivre en Libye. Mais, aujourd’hui, les autorités libyennes ont commencé à exiger des documents et ont fermé les frontières avec le Tchad, le Niger et le Soudan. La plupart des membres du groupe ont été arrêtés parce qu’ils n’avaient pas de permis de travail.

Mahamat Zene Issa a raconté à l’OIM qu’avant le déclenchement de la crise, il vivait depuis cinq ans avec sa famille, composée de trois personnes, à Sebha, une ville au sud de la Libye. Sa famille avait pu rentrer au Tchad avec un convoi d’évacuation de l’OIM, mais lui a décidé de rester en Libye pour continuer à y travailler.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

« Mama Légumes » and resilience in Senegal

By Esther Huerta García, Communication and Social Media Officer - OCHA Sahel

Joséphine runs a fruit stand in Dakar. Everyone in the neighborhood knows her as “Mama Légumes” (Mama Vegetables). She is very lucky, since she has many clients coming from around the city to buy her produce - ruby colored tomatoes, juicy carrots and leafy green bundles of cilantro, just to name a few. Mama has adapted to the times. She uses SMS to inform her clients each time she receives some particularly succulent fresh fruits and vegetables. “Hello, this is Maman Légumes, I received some juicy local oranges. How many should I keep for you?”

She will hand you the calculator at the end of each purchase, her lovely smile glowing across her face. She allows you to calculate the total amount yourself. It is all about trust.

"Mama Légumes" runs a fruit stand in Dakar. Credit: E. Huerta García- OCHA

“Maman Légumes” has long known exactly what resilience means. Though she has never heard of the word, she fully embodies it. “I come from a family of eight brothers and sisters. My mother sold fruits and vegetables too. I could not spend a lot of time at school. I had to leave when I was a child to help my family. But at least I attended enough classes to understand many things.” She smiles again. “It´s what´s in your head that really helps you move out of difficult situations.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Typical Day in the Life of a Displaced Person in Mali

By Muganzi M. Isharaza, Communications Officer, World Vision

It is 5am in a small town in central Mali. The sun, while not yet visible, has already started casting away the dark cold night. And in a tiny two-roomed house, hardly larger than twelve square meters, Miriam, age 32, awakes. She walks around the children who stir in their sleep, careful not to step on or wake them. Altogether, there are nine children squeezed in one room, while the second room acts as a pantry and “living room,” though there’s hardly any space for them to sit. With only one room to sleep in, they are still among the lucky ones: for many other internally displaced persons (IDPs), having all her children with her, in one tiny space, is actually a luxury.

“Some of the other families that fled Timbuktu had no choice but to leave their adult children there to take care of the land and property,” she says, “and now, every night they worry about whether or not their children are alive.”

Miriam fled Timbuktu with her children on January 9, but her husband, Yussuf, had insisted on staying there to take care of the family’s property; as of January 30, she had yet to hear from him and does not know whether he has survived. She’s heard of the successful recapture of Timbukutu by the Malian and French armies, but that does little to settle her mind. (Muganzi Isharaza/World Vision)

This worry has not stopped for the Touareg families like Miriam’s who fled into Central Mali from Timbuktu and other places in the North. Touaregs are light skinned Malians and have traditionally lived in the Northern part of the country. However, because the anti-Government militants in this region are often of a similar light complexion, many other Malians believe that all Touaregs support the armed opposition groups who imposed vicious laws on the fabled Northern Malian city before the French troops came.  Because of this, revenge attacks against Touaregs and even killings have been reported in several parts of the country.

Miriam prepares breakfast for her children, before waking them up at 6:30, prepares them for school and at 7, serves their breakfast and sends them off. She then sweeps the yard, tidies up the two rooms she now calls home and then heads to the market.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sahel food crisis update: Lifting a heavy load

Humanitarian action helped avert the worst possible outcome in the Sahel, but farmers need more support to avoid future food shortages.



By Chris Hufstader/ Oxfam

Before completely turning my back on 2012, I am reflecting on Oxfam's work in the Sahel over the last year. After a season of poor or erratic rains across the region in 2011, Oxfam and many other humanitarian groups feared that another bad harvest in 2012 would push millions into starvation. I visited farmers in far eastern Senegal in April of 2012 to see what they recommended: They wanted seeds so they could plant, and food so they could work. They also said they needed rain, never guaranteed in the Sahel.

Oxfam responded to the crisis in seven countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, The Gambia, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal. We assisted more than 1 million people with a variety of programs tailored to the specific location: We helped people fleeing violence and instability in Mali get the food and clean water they needed to survive. Oxfam repaired wells, and provided fodder for animals, and paid people to work on erosion control and soil improvement projects. We distributed soap so people could keep clean, and the means to treat water, to reduce vulnerability to waterborne diseases. We distributed food in places where none was available, and money to buy it where it was.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Agricultural sector risk assessment in Niger: moving from crisis response to long-term risk management - technical assistance

By World Bank  


Niger, owing to its climatic, institutional, livelihood, economic, and environmental context, is one of the most vulnerable countries of the world. Poverty is pervasive in Niger and it ranks low on almost all the human development indicators. Agriculture is the most important sector of Niger's economy and accounts for over 40 percent of national gross domestic product (GDP) and is the principle source of livelihood for over 80 percent of the country's population. The performance of the agricultural sector, however, due to its high exposure to risks, is very volatile. Niger has experienced multiple shocks, largely induced by agricultural risks over the past 30 years, which impose high welfare cost in terms of food availability, food affordability, and malnutrition. It also adversely affects household incomes, performance of the agricultural sector, the government's fiscal balance, and the growth rate of Niger's economy.

Niger is a case of living perpetually with risk, thus more emphasis on long-term structural solutions, rather than short-term quick fixes, is required to improve the resilience of the agricultural sector. Designing and implementing a comprehensive agricultural risk management strategy will require sustained and substantial financial investments, shifting the focus from short-term crisis response to long-term risk management, streamlining disparate donor investments and isolated interventions toward the core problem, supporting decentralized community, and farm-level decision making, integrating agricultural risk management into the existing development frameworks, prioritizing agricultural risks into government and donor strategies, and focusing on implementation.

Click on the picture to see full assessment

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Fighting cuts off food and humanitarian assistance


By Jeremy Konyndyk/ Mercy Corps 

Northern Malians struggling from food shortages
 Credit: Mercy Corps

Populations in northern Mali are facing severe food shortages since fighting has cut off vital humanitarian assistance and access to markets.

Mercy Corps team members monitoring the situation in the Gao region report that food supplies are dwindling since the military offensive against rebel extremists began in January.

Families are dependent on local markets that usually receive weekly deliveries, but most have completely shut down. Vendors in Gao and elsewhere have fled to protect their stocks from looting; commercial supply routes have been disrupted by the closure of the Algerian border and other military blockades; and most humanitarian agencies, including Mercy Corps, have been forced to suspend aid distributions for security reasons.

Other food sources are not widely available and stocks from the rice harvest are rapidly running out, leaving the population to face a looming crisis. Urgent steps must be taken in the next days and weeks to restore crucial lifelines as quickly as possible.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mali: ICRC visits detainees


The ICRC has been able to visit people detained in central Mali in connection with the conflict, in order to monitor their treatment and conditions of detention. At the same time, the organization is helping people who have returned to their homes in central Mali, after having fled the recent fighting.

Mopti sub-delegation Head Philippe Mbonyingingo explains.


OCHA Humanitarian Kiosk: a new apple tool that gives up-to-the-minute humanitarian related information from Mali




The Humanitarian Kiosk (HKiosk) application provides a range of up-to-the-minute humanitarian related information from emergencies around the world. The application has multiple independant kiosks which reflect locations where UN-OCHA operates or there is an ongoing international humanitarian emergency.

Once installed on your I-Phone, I-Pad or I-Pod touch, you simply select the kiosks that you are interested in and they will be automatically downloaded and synchronized to your mobile device. Downloading the files enables offline abilities which is extremely important as most responders do not have regular, consistent internet connection.

Humanitarian Kiosk gives quick access to all the OCHA publications in Mali for real time updates.

Learn more about Humanitarian Kiosk

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A painful separation


By Edwige Depagne-Sorgho/ Plan International

Nine year old Saoudata has had to make a sacrifice that no little girl should.

She’s had to evacuate Sévaré without her mother or her two-year old brother. The only reason that they were left behind was because her mum, Habibatou, was short on bus fare by 6,000 CFA (US$12).

"She has to put her children first, that is what mothers do", her aunt Zachery said.

Saoudata and three other brothers and sisters will be living with their Aunty Zachery and Uncle Ahmed.

Credit: Plan Iternational

It’s the second time they were uprooted because of the conflict in Mali. Last year, the Timbuktu family – including Ahmed, Zachery and their three children - fled to Sévaré when fighting broke out in the historic north Malian city. They felt Sévaré would be safe. Now they’ve had to run again, this time to Ségou the regional capital in central Mali where there is a large army and government presence.

This city is still bustling with activity seemingly oblivious to the fighting north and west of the town. There was a tense moment when the armed insurgents crossed the border from Mauritania and seized Diabaly about 160km north of Ségou. The tension was noticeable in the town but the following day everything was back to normal. The markets and stores are open and trading is alive and well.

In the midst of life, Saoudata is visibly unhappy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Aid worker diary: The young girls and boys of Mali

By Maria Mutya Frio, Communications Manager at World Vision


Credit: Maria Mutya Frio/ World Vision
Today is unlike any other Wednesday. I am in Mali talking to families who fled the violence in the latest armed conflict to rock the West African country. In recent weeks, I have watched Mali grab headlines as government and French troops launch a military campaign against armed opposition groups. Reportedly enforcing a strict interpretation of Sharia law, these groups had been occupying Mali’s northern provinces since last year. As I read the news, I shake my head – not another war. At a certain point, I go numb from reading stories about the military intervention. But I carry on with my day.

Today is different. I am in San province working for the charity organization World Vision which is responding to the needs of displaced people who came in exodus from the north. I am face to face with the displaced Malians who shake my hand and look me in the eye as they share their stories. Suddenly the statistics on TV have a human face.

In December, Namina* escaped from Timbuktu, the historic homeland of the Tuaregs and one of the areas which fell under rebel groups’ control. Namina left with her three daughters and six other children from her village. Her neighbor and their 16-year old daughter Sata were left behind.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mali Crisis: Life on the Edge of a War Zone

By Helen Blakesley: Regional Information Officer, CRS

It’s not every day you’re sent to a war zone. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. I’m not behind the lines where the military operations are going on. But I am in a country where a state of emergency has been declared.

I’m in Bamako, the capital of Mali, a country in West Africa where life expectancy is 53 years and where just 20 per cent of women can read and write. Mali is so much more than that though. It’s a beautiful place where the majestic River Niger winds from dusty swathes in the north to mango trees and banana fronds in the south. A place whose music boasts a worldwide reputation. A place, until last year, held up as an example of political stability and a magnet for tourists. Sadly, it’s now the subject of the biggest news story coming out of Africa – and consequently, one of the most worrying humanitarian situations too.

Civilians continue to flee military offensive in Mali; internal return prospects mixed

By Helene Caux & William Spindler, UNHCR - Mali


 The UN refugee agency said on Friday 1 February that the fast-evolving military situation in the north of Mali has raised hopes that many displaced people will be able to go back to their homes soon, but considerable challenges remain.

"To the extent that refugee numbers are a barometer of the situation, UNHCR notes that refugees are still fleeing to neighbouring countries," spokesman Adrian Edwards noted.

In the Mali capital, Bamako, UNHCR staff have interviewed displaced families who say they are ready to return to their homes in the Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal regions as soon as the roads to the north are reopened. Bus services to Gao and Timbuktu have been suspended because of the conflict.

Bus companies in Bamako confirm that they are receiving phone calls from people asking about the resumption of regular services to Douentza, Gao and Timbuktu. Buses are presently travelling only as far as the towns of Mopti and Sevare.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chad averts locust threat


Pest control and dryer weather have curbed locust invasion
Credit: Col Frankland/Flickr

Chad has eliminated the threat of a full-scale locust invasion in its northern region, a pastoralist zone dotted with oases that provide water for small-scale farming, says the National Locust Control Agency (ANLA).

"If we hadn’t prevented the locust infestation, pasture and farms would have been devastated and there would have been famine," said ANLA’s Rassei Neldjibaye.

Control operations and dryer weather in recent months have reduced locust numbers across the Sahel. Only scattered and lone adult hoppers were observed in a few areas in northern Chad, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said in a recent update.

Neldjibaye said plans were in place for future pest control operations targeting either 50,000 or 100,000 hectares "in case of an invasion".