GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warns the security situation in Mali will continue to spiral downward unless the international community invests more heavily in addressing the humanitarian crisis that is increasing poverty and hunger among the population.
U.N. officials expect 3.8 million people in Mali will be short of food during the so-called lean season from June to August. This is the period between two harvests when food stocks are depleted. They say more than one-half million people will be in a crisis or emergency situation.
The head of the OCHA office in Mali, Ute Kollies, said poverty, hunger, the impact of climate change and disputes over land and resources are some of the problems that trigger inter-ethnic violence and that are behind rising insecurity in the country.
Unfortunately, she said the international response to growing violence in the country is to spend more money to beef up security, rather than addressing the huge humanitarian assistance needs.
“It is not that the international community does not invest in Mali. They look at Mali as a problem of terrorism, illegal migration and so their answer is invest in military deployments, reinforce security,” said Kollies.
Kollies estimates roughly $3 billion a year is spent for U.N. Peacekeeping Forces, the G-5 countries that fight terrorism in the Sahel, and other Malian Armed Forces. By contrast, the United Nations has appealed for $296 million for its humanitarian operations in Mali this year and has received just nine percent of that amount.
She said stronger political mediation efforts are crucial for ending the seemingly endless spiral of fighting. She told VOA multiple mediation efforts currently are underway by the government, the United Nations, and various non-governmental agencies.
“We need a strong leadership in that because we need to have a harmonized approach, and we need to address the different conflicts in the different areas with similar kind of methodology and similar kind of messaging, and we have to act on those messages, as well,” said Kollies.
The OCHA official says it is not good enough to just talk about ways to end the conflicts. She said the underlying causes must be addressed. She said the likelihood of stopping the current spiral of deterioration will be enhanced if serious efforts are made in this direction.