Mali is a worrying example of how repeated crises can destabilise a country. Caught in a vicious cycle of hunger and poverty, the people are less and less able to counter natural disasters and periods of drought. The violent conflict between Islamist fundamentalists, Tuareg rebels and the Malian government also aggravates their situation – and reduces their resilience.
Today, half of the population has to survive on less than 1.25 US dollars a day and thus lives below the poverty line. The Global Hunger Index 2015 classifies the hunger situation as "serious".
Hunger and oppression in Mali: "We were paralysed by fear"
The current crisis began in 2012, as Tuareg separatists joined with Islamist groups and with mercenaries who had returned from the Libyan war. The northern areas of Mali came under the control of the rebels. Hadi Mahamane, a 65-year-old from the small village of Toya, explains what that means. In 2012, life here broke down abruptly, as rebels overran the village and attacked the residents.
"We were alive, but we were paralysed by fear. I always gave the children from what I had to eat and never had a full meal myself. But it was never enough for them either." This is how Hadi Mahamane describes the time after her village had been attacked by rebels.
The story of Hadi Mahamane reveals much about the conflict in Mali and the relationship between war and hunger. Many women and children were isolated, had to remain in their houses, and were unable to go out in the fields or to school. The men went searching for money and food. During this period, around 4.6 million Malians were already threatened by hunger due to a previous drought.
The violent conflict took away people’s livelihood
With the political crisis, the nutritional situation of many Malians worsened rapidly. They lost their harvests, supplies were barely sufficient. In 2013, due to the conflict, they were unable to tend their fields. Very quickly, it became almost impossible to obtain basic foodstuffs on the markets. Livestock was also lost – either robbed by the rebels, or starved to death. At the end of 2013, between 70 and 90 per cent of the population in the north were dependent on food rations that they received from international aid organisations.
It was only in 2014 that the people slowly returned to their homes and began to cultivate their land again. For them, the signing of the peace agreement in mid-2015 by all parties signified an important step forward.
What do the people in Mali need now? Stability and security
In order to breathe life into the agreement, political and institutional reforms must now be implemented in Mali.
- People in the north must be connected to the basic infrastructure of the country.
- The restoration of security and the rule of law is extremely important for preventing a vicious cycle of hunger and armed conflicts in Mali.
- Without justice and the guarantee of human rights, a national reconciliation process is almost inconceivable.
- It is just as important to end the dependence on emergency aid. People want to be able to provide for themselves.
The women in the Peace Garden near Timbuktu are showing how peaceful co-existence can succeed. They come from different backgrounds, but the experiences of poverty, hunger and war unite them. Visit the women dreaming of a future without hunger and violence.
The aid measures are financially supported by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
... 4.1% of the population is undernourished.
... 12.7% of the children under 5 are wasted.
... 38.3% of children under 5 show signs of stunting.
... 12.3% of children die before their 5th birthday.