VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Drought and turmoil in Mali: Q&A on the IRC's emergency response
July 20, 2012 by The IRC
|The IRC began providing fuel for water pumps in Menaka Cercle, northern Mali, after fighting between secular Tuareg rebels and Islamic militia groups cut off the town's water supply. Photo: The IRC|
Drought in the Sahel region of Africa could not come at a worse time for the nation of Mali. Its northern territory was forcibly taken over by insurgents early this year, and soon afterwards a coup displaced the country’s democratically elected government. The result has been political and economic turmoil as well as massive displacement of the population. Tasha Gill, based in the capital, Bamako, is coordinating the International Rescue Committee’s emergency response in Mali and neighboring Niger. We spoke with her today.
Q. What are the most acute needs we’re dealing with?
Q. How do you address the problem?
Q. What are the needs in the rebel-held areas of the north?
A. Although thousands of people have fled from the north to neighboring countries to escape the extremists, many others have stayed within its borders but have moved to locations that are more secure. For them, getting clean water is often a major challenge, since the surface water they are driven to use is usually polluted and causes water-borne diseases, heightening the risk of cholera.
Q Is the IRC able to help in the north?
A. Yes. Members of our staff who are natives of the area are able to travel to deliver aid. They’ve restored access to water in locations where it’s most needed, and they’re working to get water points repaired. As for cholera, the most effective strategy is prevention, so we are carrying out a hygiene promotion campaign in villages and at health centers. And we’re distributing water purification kits in risky areas so families can be sure to have clean water.
Q. Are we working with refugees who have fled Mali?
A. At the Abala refugee camp across the border in Niger, we’ve just completed an assessment of the needs of women for emergency protection and reproductive health services. And because children are frequently separated from their families when refugees take flight, we are conducting an assessment of the need for cross-border identification, tracing and reunification of children who have been separated from their families.
Q. You’ve worked with uprooted populations in northern Uganda, Congo, Libya, the Middle East and Nepal. How does the situation in Mali compare with other humanitarian crises?