Conflict in Mali disrupts fragile food markets and threatens to escalate food crisis in West Africa

Africa, Emergencies, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 30 Mar 2012

Growing conflict in Mali and northern Nigeria is disrupting the supply of food to communities suffering from a major food crisis affecting 13 million people in West Africa, international aid agency Oxfam said today.

The conflict in northern Mali, one of the driving factors of last week’s coup d’état and the temporary closure of borders, had already posed a major risk to vulnerable communities in Mali and the region.

Now there are signs the escalation in the country’s instability is further affecting the already serious food insecurity across West Africa, meaning a rapid increase in humanitarian assistance to the region is urgently needed.

In Mali, more than 200,000 people have been displaced since January. Half of these people have fled to neighbouring countries and they are in urgent need of food, water, sanitation and shelter. Further waves of displacement remain a risk.

The disruption of local and cross-border food markets have limited food supplies and increased prices. Traditional migration routes used by pastoralists have been disrupted, and there has been a sharp downturn in the migration of workers – an important way that families cope in hard times – due to fears of violence.

While Oxfam and other agencies continue to operate and provide assistance to vulnerable people in zones affected by conflict, a further degradation of security may risk hampering humanitarian access and the provision of basic services to areas of greatest need.

Eric Mamboué, Oxfam Country Director in Mali, said dealing with the urgent nutritional needs of the Malian population must remain a top priority, and access to desperately needed humanitarian assistance must be ensured. 

“The insecurity in Mali must not prevent the urgent efforts needed to deal with the other crisis in this country: the lack of affordable food that threatens the lives and livelihoods of 3.5 million Malians,” he said.

Responding to the increased humanitarian needs of displaced people, Oxfam is already providing food, water and sanitation to refugees and host communities at three sites in the Tillabery region of Niger, as well as the Fassala transit camp in the Nema region of Mauritania. Preparations are also being made to provide assistance to 19,000 refugees in Burkina Faso.

Overall, Oxfam plans to reach 350,000 people in Mali and 1.2 million people across the Sahel region of West and Central Africa with humanitarian assistance.

The Australian Government has provided $10  million through the World Food Programme and other UN partners to focus on the worst hit countries of Niger and Chad.

To donate to Oxfam’s Africa Food Crisis appeal go to or call 1800 034 034.

For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795 or