More than 3 million people are suffering from hunger as insecurity persists in Mali’s north, Mali officials and the United Nations said Wednesday.
Food insecurity also means more than 715,000 children are at risk of acute malnutrition, said U.N. humanitarian coordinator Mbaranga Gasarabwe.
“Additionally, there are significant needs for protection and access to basic services such as education and health,” she said on the United Nations’ World Humanitarian Day.
Mali is a landlocked country in Africa’s dry Sahel region.
Armed conflict in the north has weakened the economy, threatened civilians and exposed them to hunger, said Mali’s Social Development adviser Moussa Ouattara.
Fighting broke out Saturday in Mali’s north between pro-government militia groups and Tuareg separatists and lasted three days. The violence broke a peace accord signed in June. Government-allied groups have settled in some territory occupied by Tuareg separatists since July.
Their initial presence was accepted, but separatists say their continued stay is against the terms of the accord.
Both sides blamed each other for launching attacks. Pro-government militia GATIA took over Anefis, a village south of Kidal, and said they killed 23 separatists.
The U.N. set up a security zone of 20 kilometers (12 miles) on Tuesday around Kidal to protect the civilian population and said they would act as mandated should any GATIA members come within the zone.
Mali’s humanitarian affairs minister, Hamadoun Konate, called for calm so that humanitarian programs can continue in the region.
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