Mali unrest displaces at least 436 000
16 August 2012, 15:09
Dakar - Unrest in Mali after a coup and the
occupation of its sprawling north by Islamists and rebels has dislocated
nearly 436 000 people this year, a UN report said on Wednesday.
of 10 August 2012, the complex emergency in Mali had displaced an
estimated 435 624 people," the Office for the Co-ordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
"Of these, 261 624 refugees
from Mali have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees in neighbouring countries, and 174 000 are internally
Since a military coup on 22 March which toppled its
president, Mali has fallen prey to hardline armed Islamist groups linked
to al-Qaeda's north African branch Aqim who have taken control of a
number of towns and villages.
According to OCHA, the worst
affected region is Mali's vast desert north, where 105 000 people have
fled fighting in the cities of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao.
About 32 500 people have been displaced from the central city of Mopti and the rest from southern regions.
Islamist groups have imposed strict sharia, prompting outrage in recent
weeks by stoning an unmarried couple to death and cutting off the hand
of a thief. They are also accused of recruiting child soldiers to their
Risk of famine
In the fabled city of Timbuktu they destroyed ancient World Heritage shrines, declaring them "haram", or forbidden by Islam.
report also highlighted the health and food security crises wracking
the country, including an outbreak of cholera near Gao in early July
which has killed 11 people. About 140 cases have been reported.
location in the Sahel region, a semi-arid belt crossing the north of
Africa, also exposes it to a risk of famine, says the report.
Sahel is battling a severe food crisis after failed harvests last year
that have left millions hungry. The conflict in Mali has placed even
greater strain on food resources in the region.
The Food and
Agriculture Organisation warned that "emergency food assistance must be
provided to 4.6 million people" in Mali, which has a population of 14.5
So far, the UN's World Food Programme has reached 360
000 people in southern Mali, OCHA's report said, and over 148 000 people
in the north.
Finally, a plague of locusts in northern Mali is now spreading, warned the report, threatening agricultural production.